Monday, September 29, 2014

Walking through the Squares

Up at the crack of dawn and off to town. Managed to read another book of Paradise Lost on the train too. Magnificent stuff.

Train was delayed, bus broke down etc. so arrived late having walked through Bloomsbury, whose squares looked absolutely stunning, in their early Autumn glory.

Not worked in Tavistock Square for a year. But felt comfortable returning and was teamed up with an talented and easy-going Brazilian art director called Fernanda on an interesting job.

Home late. Emailing Jane and Richard, Jane had one of those alarms in the night, and wrote about it hilariously here. 

And early to bed.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Shakey Sunday

Up and working this morning on various stuff from last week that I needed to finish, billing, admin and so on. Lorraine working on her stuff too until she went shopping with Beth for her Cairo trip as an Ugly Sister. Betty also found out that she had got the job as an elf in Brighton for Christmas, about which she was delighted. 

We finished at 3.00 and then off to The Shakey's Head where we met John, Anton and Matt for a Sunday lunch. And surprisingly delicious roast it was too. Lots of chatting, and good to see Matt. All having very restrained drinks, as I was still feeling very drained and worn out, and everyone else was too. Home to watch some TV and relax, and a very early night's sleep.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An imperfect view

Very tired today. Calliope thoughtfully woke me up at six. We drove off to Haywards Heath to Lorriane's pal Jo's house which she is about to rent to us for the hopefully short period in between moving out of The Old Church Hall and moving into our new home. A nice enough little place, in a leafy little ex council estate. We are calling it our cats and skeletons move, i.e. just taking the cats and skeleton belongings.

Home via Trading Boundaries, to see an exhibition of Roger Dean's work. Dean was a hero in my teenage years, not just because of the fact he did the Yes album covers, but also his book Views made me think about design and architecture in a whole new way. But the exhibition was slapdash, and did the work no justice, like some kind of disorganised Brighton Open house. Good to see some of the prints, and so on however. But disappointing overall. As we drove off saw Dean himself from a distance hugging people. He'll always be a hero to me.

Home and both Lorraine and I feeling throaty and very tired. Slept in the afternoon, and I wanted to do nothing at all today other than slump, an objective I accomplished with success.

Meanwhile on Richard's blog is one of my poems, which is rather nice of him.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Joyful railings

Up early and stole downstairs for a cup of tea and some toast this morning, and stole out into the morning air and sloped off  into London. The Phantom Railing clanked as I walked past them on the way into the office again. I love this piece of public art.

Finished one of the strangest weeks of work I think I have ever had, and walked free, or freeish having some more to do at the weekend before I can put this strange job to bed. Nevertheless , clanging imaginary joyful railings.

I had arranged to meet Betty on the train, but she just missed it. I drank the can of beer I had bought for me, and the one I had bought for Betty and texted her to tell her. Lorraine was at the station to collect us, and we went to the new station bar to wait for Betty and then John.

Lorraine and I slipped out for a curry in a different restaurant. Not as good as our usual which was too busy tonight. Just great to be home with my lovely wife after a long week.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Back to work

Dragged my sorry behind off to London, dazed but fairly cheery after last night. Day four at the blowhard convention, and a punishing afternoon session where I had to slip out to the gents, lock myself into a cubicle and give vent to a near silent bout of Tourette's for a minute before I felt I could return.

Up to to stay with Mum and Mase again in the evening. Walked to the Weatherspoons pub in Stanmore where they had secured a booth. For it was the popular curry night, and decent pints of lager were also to be had for a couple of quid. It seemed rude not to drink some of these as we spent the evening chatting. Mum also falling into a beauty conversation with ladies in powder room. Back to Edgware feeling very full and very tired. I took myself rapidly to bed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Another tale to tell

Up to the smoke again. Saw a complete arch of a rainbow forming a magical gateway into London as the train approached from the south. I took this as a lucky omen.

Joined the interminable meeting at 8:30. Most odd way to spend a week, as a fly on the wall with a vague remit, but having to take copious notes.  By agreement, I slipped off early and headed for Victoria. By chance the travel Gods were at their most benign (apart from leaving my old anorak on the train) and I got home, met Lorraine, changed and we jumped into a taxi to the Cameron Gallery in Hove.

Here met Robin and Nick. A lovely venue. When I arrived at the venue, I opened my specs case to find it empty necessitating the borrowing of Nick's glasses which happily were okay. The couple who owned it were pleasant and helpful - and the art there was great too. We set up, and people drifted in, enjoyed twice as much bubbly as the Lewes crowd. Catherine Pope came, Anton, Rosie, and John coming to his first poetry reading.  Feeling slightly less twitchy than last week, I was able to enjoy the other readings. Catherine Smith's read different poems this week, and I came away with a completely different impression of her work, which is full of a compelling darkness which went right over my head the last time. While John McCollough, who I met for the first time was a lovely man and fine poet. The evening only marred for me by making a hash of Robin's introduction. I borrowed Nick's glasses for my reading, but then as I introduced Robin, wasn't able to read my own notes.

My biggest surprise of the evening was Anton, attending his first poetry event, and finding to everyone's surprise that he had actually enjoyed himself. Had a cheeky couple of drinks in the pub afterwards with Lorraine, Rosie and Anton and also chatted to John, and a few other folks who had been at the reading.

Into a taxi, and dropped Anton off before home. A long and tiring day - but another good night.

Below Robin, and me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Railing and Baffling

Almost chilly as I crept out of Mum and Mason's house having snacked on toast and a banana.

To Stanmore and into town. Walking down from Euston Square station passed some Phantom Railings, an interactive sound sculpture that uses the movements of pedestrians to evoke a phantom of a lost iron face, a sound like someone running a stick of wood along a fence.

A day that was baffling and boring by turns. Seems I have only to write one thing, and to treat the week as a kind of briefing.  I sit there and take notes feeling a bit like a pork chop in a synagog. Home to supper, and a hug from my lovely wife, and some miaows from Calliope.

To bed, and then a call from Toby, he and Romy now back from Japan.

Below, a delightful Brighton based Charleston video. Yay. Brighton looks lovely.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Blowhards in the smoke

Up early and off to London. I was late but I managed to bundle into the meeting I am supposed to attend all week. Room full of corporate blowhards from the US who barely spoke to me when they realised I was only a writer. I was trying to sift some nuggets and, glanced wistfully out of the window at the sunlight falling on London planes.

After a long day's work off to see Mum and Mas. Unable to force myself down into the purgatorial crowds of the northern line, instead I made my way to Baker Street and was picked up by mum in her little red car at Stanmore.

Spent a pleasant evening up in Edgware with Mum and Mas eating roast chicken and steamed vegetables, and drinking wine. Mas had experienced a trying day, with banker problems. Felix the cat limping about and because he does not have many teeth, had a strange expression, which they say is like Clint Eastwood, but I think it's a bit or an Elvis lip. I had to make off to bed pretty early, however, as it had been a tiring day. I will however return on Thursday night too, to use their house like a hotel yet again.

Spoke to Lorraine in bed, before falling heavily asleep.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Hopefully a day of recovery as Lorraine still not feeling well. Beth and John home today, and Lorraine did sewing and cooked a delicious roast with a cheesy leek and breadcrumb dish, roast potatoes and so on, which we forked down happily for Sunday lunch.

I worked most of the day on various bits and pieces, including starting on my accounts.  Betty back up to London, and I bought a ticket for next week at the station. Feeling under energised, and the foreboding sense of having a tiring week ahead.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A second look

A low key day, Lorraine not feeling very well, and I still had a sore throat. Calliope this morning again trying to catch shadow birds.

Lorraine went into town with Beth to sort out phones, and do some shopping.  I did some work up at my desk. Later in the afternoon, Lorraine and I walked up to Osborne Road to be shown around the new house. Betty met us there for a look round too. Lorraine and I very excited by seeing it again, and Betty liked it too. Felt really cheery that the house was better than I remembered it.

Then we popped into the Preston Park Tavern, which is the one of our new local pubs, and had a swift drink sitting outside, before sauntering home. A quiet night indoors half watching the guilty pleasure of the X Factor and eating the tasty spaghetti bolognese that Betty had cooked for us. 

Calliope at it again.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A papal audience

The news full of Scotland's vote to stay part of the United Kingdom. It seems to have been a head over heart decision by the Scots. Feel rather sorry for the dismal yes voters, their romanticised vision of an independent Scotland narrowly voted down.  

For me, a papal audience with Catherine Pope in the Bath Arms, talking about publishing, politics and plumbers (she has an excellent one called Evita apparently). A bite to eat and a couple of pints. I always enjoy my lunches with Catherine. Sadly had to hurry home, however for an afternoon briefing from the French Bloke and Pat on a job in London starting early on Monday. Ended the afternoon  with Beth and her pal Laura up in the mezzanine playing music as Betty was printing out scripts and so on for her class tomorrow, as well as her panto part to highlight her lines and stage directions, before the girls making off.

Lorraine home  and we went to talk to two of our neighbours to discuss some tiresome legal stuff and sip some wine. After, Lorraine and I went to Pizza 500, the pizza place a stone's throw from our house which turns out to be staffed by Italians and serving some of the best pizza and ice-cream I've had in the UK. Lorraine and I relaxed in there.  Home and both nodding off on the sofa, before shepherding each other, yawningly to bed.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A sneak peek

Pleased with the aftermath of yesterday's reading. Cheery emails with Robin and some nice feedback from folks, and texts from Mark. I need a more restrained day, with only one solicitor's letter to send and no agency work to do. Read another book of Paradise Lost in a cafe, and did some light bits of work. Beth cheery today as she has got a part as Fannie an ugly sister in a panto in Cairo. She will be put up in a five star hotel too, which should be great fun.

Was phoned by Tracey for a pleasant and commiserating conversation - she is a nice woman especially when you bear in mind she is an estate agent. 

Lorraine and I walking to get a sneak peek at our new house and check out the neighbourhood again. It is within five minutes walk of two good boozers, as well as a little parade of shops just around the corner, with a nice very middle class butcher and grocer, a general store, chemist, off-licence, vet, a fish and chip shop, a nasty looking pizza takeaway (the new Ace?) and a bus stop with four or five buses an hour into the town centre.

On the good omens front, noticed that there is a fuchsia bush by the gate (reminding me of my grandmother's garden in Guernsey) and not only is it the same number as my old house in the Twitten, curiously the postcode is almost identical too. Surely with this hardnosed empirical evidence nothing can go wrong.

Walked home across the park, still warm and busy for this time of year.  Lorraine and I feeling hopeful and cheery. Offered some work in London for a couple of weeks too. Home to supper with Betty, and an early night, both Lorraine and I having sore throats and so on. Beth still not fully recovered either.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Enjoying The Nightwork

Seeking tranquility today and to get myself in the right frame of mind for The Nightwork pamphlet launch this evening. After running through what I had intended to read, I felt the Kenny pipes rasping somewhat as my throat has been sore for a few days. I drank loads of water, however, and this seemed to do the trick and it was much improved by the evening, and Beth suggested emergency remedies of steam baths etc. if it got serious.

Like the literary Titan I am, I spent my afternoon waiting for a small roofer, who arrived late and sporting many tattoos of boxers and a humorous hinge in the crease of his arm. Making a meal of the work, he clambered about on the roof and hammered at the lead flashing and did other apparently helpful things 'for nothing'. These he described in tiresome detail. He relieved me of a decent chunk of cash, but did not receive the tip he also requested. Worse, he garbled and looked at his son when he was talking to me so I could only undersand part of what he was going on about anyway. This business Porlocked the afternoon and put me in a poor mood.  Luckily I had Beth and John there so I could vent a bit.

Lorraine home a little after five, and we strolled up the hill to and caught a train to Lewes for the Telltale press launch this evening. (A night on the tiles?) Arrived at The Hive and Robin and her husband Nick, Lorraine and I faffed about moving chairs, and getting the room ready.

Very happy with how things went. The room was full and I was delighted that Mark, Carol, Melissa and her boyf Henry were able to come, Mark and Carol forgoing their usual Wednesday evening Tango session. Also Antony Mair came from Hastings too.

Robin set up the evening with an introduction to Telltale, then I read for 15 minutes or so. Although a wee bit rusty, I soon got into it, and felt that I had done well enough. Apart from a newish poem Chrononaut, I read exclusively from the pamphlet. Many of these poems I had not read publicly before but none of them failed in performance. What helped was how attentive and supportive the audience was. I then introduced the excellent Catherine Smith, who I'd just met, but had learned more about on the internet. She had a lovely way of reading and her poems were very well received.

A bit of a break then, for an opportunity to buy poetry (the pamphlets sold well to our captive audience) and to sip some bubbly. Then Robin read confidently, and her poetry is excellent. I wrapped up the inaugural Telltale press evening by thanking everyone and suggested we all repair to the Lewes Arms.

Then to the pub where one of our audience, Stephen Bone, whose pamphlet is out soon, had bought us bottles of bubbly to celebrate. Chatted to Charlotte and Stephen and many others in what was a hugely enjoyable hour or so of altogethery spirit, Robin and I mightily relieved that the evening had gone off so well. An opportunity to talk to lots of poets there too, as Lewes is a hotbed of writers. Good to get to know Catherine better too, as she is part of the Telltale team. This business with Robin is turning out excellently, and seems in some ways to have come from nowhere. But it is interesting when you meet people with can-do attitudes, how together you can make great strides.

Down the hill to the station, then home on the train with my lovely wife, who had help, organised, supported and was generally the tops. I do have to congratulate myself for my own brilliance every now and then for marrying Lorraine.

Having only eaten a banana since lunch, I bought a small Ace Pizza. However, not only are we going to move away from its magnetic field soon, but they have ludicrously hiked their prices so this may be the last Ace Pizza I ever eat.

And so to bed, after a great evening.

Below Lorraine took some iPhone snaps of me while I was at it. Sporting a Richard FlemingTM white shirt. The reading was filmed, so perhaps some of it will appear on the internet soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A fresh start

Offer accepted on the new property, at a price we are very happy with. The location is not too far from the house we were about to buy, and its denizens want to move fast. Also it is number 11, the same as my wee house in the Twitten. Clearly a good omen.

Then with some relief I phoned the long-suffering agents of the spirit-channeling woman who is no nearer to making a decision than she was three months ago to tell them we were out of the deal. I almost feel sorry for her, despite the stress she has put us through. But I should have listened to my instincts, which were telling me right away that this house was not going to work out. In contrast, I have a gut feel that the new house will proceed, and that Lorraine and I will be happy there.One thing is sure, we have visited dozens of Brighton properties over the last few months - so we know exactly what is available and how much it should cost.

Meanwhile doing agency work to 'jazz up' (their phrase) some eyewateringly dull names for sessions in a global marketing conference. Then to Sainsbury's where I bought the still-ailing Betty a pizza, and lots of fruit and some shaving foam, not to mention economy prawns for Princess Calliope. Check out lady: You love your prawns, don't you. Agreeing was easier than explaining we feed most of them to my spoiled weasel.

Then I sought more roofers. A slightly desperate roofer is booked to turn up tomorrow. I hope so. I also viewed an absolutely bloody final house this afternoon. The estate agent didn't turn up, but the owner showed me around. But only after her neighbour came out to eye me suspiciously as I hung about outside.

At the end of the day, I actually made some time to think through The Nightwork launch in Lewes tomorrow night. A note from Robin to say that she had received an email from a German tourist firm asking if they could bring 42 students to our London Launch in the poetry cafe. "I think I put her off," said Robin.

Lorraine working downstairs till gone ten poor thing, then we sat with Betty and L and I had a rather exhausted glass of wine to celebrate.

Look at this fab picture of a noble and bardic Richard that Jane took for Richard's blog.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Hard and cheerful nose day

Strapped on my hard nose and fell to bargaining over the house we liked at the weekend, and although we are waiting for confirmation tomorrow, we are optimistic about a good result. Between this kind of thing, I did small amounts of preparing for my pamphlet launch in Lewes on Wednesday. And chatted a bit to Betty and John. Beth still at home and poorly. I also took a brief for a pesky bit of work, and also saw another house this evening just in case. Feeling decisive and positive today.

Off in the evening, having been driven by the lovely Lorraine, whose day included having to cover for a colleague whose husband unfortunately died today, to sit in a room in the 3 Jolly Brewers for a Brighton Poetry Stanza meeting. A good-humoured evening, with some excellent work. Nice to see Andie looking very healthy after her op, and Robin and Antony. I read a new poem which people I think liked but had little to say about in terms of improvements. Straight home after, feeling tired but in good cheer.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Walking and talking

Up and went off to buy some breakfast stuff, and Lorraine, Beth John and myself lurked about this morning eating breakfast. Beth poorly with something, I am selfishly hoping not to catch in time for my pamphlet launch this week.

Went for a walk and talk with Lorraine this afternoon, and peered at a promising house that is coming on the market next week, and discussed many things. Trying to lift our heads out of the House Move Hell and get some perspective, and think of others. Hoping that Toby and Romy are coping, having to sort out everything after Hiroko's funeral, which was attended by 600 people.

Popped in to see Janet and Ken as we were passing too. Hus was there, hugely relieved that his daughter is back in Italy after being over here and going missing several times for days in a row into the wonders of Brighton. Apparently while missing, she was featured on local TV, facebook, radio and so on news - and apparently has no concept of the hell she put Hus and Janet and Ken through.

In the evening a delicious roast cooked by Lorraine, and a chat with Mum on FaceTime who had been to the Royal Academy Show yesterday with her pal Pat.

Below Calliope watches the shadows of birds on a frosted window, and reflects on Plato's allegory of the cave and her perception of reality.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Winning through

All about property again today. Lorraine and I up early scouring the house clean, as we have not had the benefits of Sonya for a few weeks, before our meeting with the nice folks who are buying our house, and then drove around Brighton to view five other houses, and discuss houses at great length. One house was promising, and had excellent views.

Much needed snooze at the end of the day before heading out for what the Gods of Randomness had decreed would be my third curry in a row. (Now officially OFF curry for a while). To the Shahi, with Lorrine and Betty, and John and his family: Krys his mum, Jo his sister, and Joey her boyfriend plus Martin, John's uncle. A pleasant evening, and everyone except Martin returned to our place afterwards for chats. Beth feeling ill and disconcertingly quiet.

For Lorraine and I the evening was notable in that was Dr Rahmen's last night at The Shahi, and he will now will be based in Birmingham with his family, starting his career on the academic staff in the university. He was saying proudly as we were shaking his hand that he would be publishing many papers on biogas technology. Extremely heartening to see him resilliently win through at long last.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The week is done

Our bid on the messy house was unsuccessful, someone had bid the same amount as us, but was able to move more swiftly. Lorraine and I press on remorselessly, however, into the next ring of House Move Hell. I might suggest it to Amanda as a new board game, so, mad-eyed, I can slam meeples around the board in endless circles.

Otherwise admin and waiting for many hours for a bit more German work to turn up, and sending and receiving emails to Robin plotting next Wednesday's poetry beano/pamphlet launch in Lewes. Turns out that famous and successful poets, who I met a couple of times in a very former life, John Agard and Grace Nichols are having an event in Lewes at the same time as us. The two parties are apparently to meet up in the Lewes Arms afterwards, so I can keep my achievements in proper perspective.

Beth home in the afternoon,  sitting on Lorraine's desk and printing off comedy skits for her class tomorrow. After I had phoned lots more estate agents I dragged the body of the working week into an alley, and popped a few caps into its skull. This done, Beth and I went to the Hare and Hounds for a beer and a bit of a chat. Lorraine arrived a little later, and we talked of property matters and so on before driving up to meet Jess and Andrew in a nice curry house called Spice Village in Cuckfield, not far from where they live. Good food and pleasant staff, and nice to catch up with Jess and Andrew who I increasingly like.

We went back with them to meet Winnie, who is some kind of cross between a poodle and a spaniel or perhaps a terrier or St. Bernard or something. My dog knowledge is insufficient. It looked like an animated furry toy, and was undoubtedly the cutest dog ever and they are both besotted with it. Lorraine cooing over Winnie too a good deal before we drove home, and it snuffled charmingly into my palm a few times.

Important cyber news: Richard has a blog, which you can find here: Bard at Bay and I've also added it to the sidebar for continual no-holds-bard access.

Below a local art gallery round the corner, with a neon noose gleaming in sinister fashion from inside. Winnie the cute dog.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Old friends in old boozers

Working at home for the Germans this morning, then sending off our Best & Final Offer for the property that needs loads of work. Also marvelling at information from Jane, who thinks the strange flower in yesterday's post is a Jersey lily. Having never been there, I can't say. Facetimed Mum intensively about property stuff.

Lorraine working at home in the morning which was nice. A meh afternoon, after she'd gone, not achieving much other than a bit of admin and inventing ways to harm roofers who never turn up to do the work.

The evening, however, great fun. I went to Lewes to meet Mark Hartley, now officially my oldest friend, having known him since we were 11. Loads to catch up on, such as Mark taking up dancing the tango, and a fair amount of beer to be drunk. Started in the admirable Lewes Arms, via an curry house to The Gardener's Arms, which has the air of a boozer's boozer and appears unchanged for decades, and here we indulged in nostalgia for our school and the poor souls forced to attend it.

Home on the short train ride to London Road station, messaging the Tobster, and then bounced into the bedroom chatting volubly to a sleepy Lorraine.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A walk in the park

Up early with Lorraine, who had to drive off early to work. As it was such a lovely morning, I broke with routine, and took myself for a breakfast cup of coffee in a nearby cafe, and a read of another book of the amazing Paradise Lost.

Then I took a stroll around the park too, fresh in the early autumn sunshine and was back home for 9:30am to start to phone Estate agents, and chase the roofing man who promised to come and never did. Then waited for a briefing from the Germans (which did not arrive till 5 pm) and so read more of Paradise Lost.

In the afternoon I went to look at a property, and returned home through the park dodging the small but burly, shirtless traveller children running about three or four caravans that have settled in the park. Strange to see people suddenly living in the park, one young mum slinging a bowlful of washing up water onto the grass out of her caravan door. Amazingly clean caravans and cars.

Spoke to Janet who had been in hospital all day having tests on her lump, but apparently they were generally reassuring.

Cooked for Lorraine, after watching a documentary about Philip Larkin on YouTube, and then headed for the gold sofa once she was home. Poor thing had to drive 120 miles today.

Below snaps in Preston Park, including two in the walled garden, a strange flower growing there, and the nearby church.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Another day in House Move Hell

The &*%$ we are attempting to buy from has now reversed her decision of yesterday, and won't move out -- so Plan B of finding another property is our only option, while our buyers want to move in a matter of weeks. This morning answering a list of solicitors questions, some of which revolve around a bull's-eye window in our property. I replied in shouty capitals after having made this point twice already that there are no effing bull's eye windows in the property. This done, a new and longer list arrived from the solicitors an hour later, asking many more idiotic questions. Lorraine and I having conversations with estate agents. This is house move hell.

To put it mildly, the mindset I need to be in to do real work is almost impossible to achieve. Luckily there is a smidge of undemanding German work coming through.

In the afternoon off to meet Mindy, who is in Brighton and we sat outside in the cafe in the Pavilion Gardens for an hour or so, before her partner David, who it transpires lives in the Marina came to collect her. Good to catch up with Mindy, who was in excellent health, and full of various stories about the stress of living with a teenage son who balks at authority and rules, randomly buying a cottage in Wales 'if you want to make absolutely sure you get rid of All of your money, buy a cottage in Wales'  and so on. David is a keen sailor and has a sailboat, after doing this up for some months he took Mindy out on it, and she described the scene of herself looking glam, wind in her hair on the deck, till they got outside the marina, where she was repeatedly sick. David, in what have been a moment full of mixed feelings, explained that this was the calmest it could be without having to use the motor.

Then to the gym, where I had a psychologically healthy go on the cross trainer and rowing machine. Home and Dawn arrived for some grub with us and much chatting. Discussion of how the full moon has been making everyone cranky and much mutual consolation about the many levels of House Move Hell.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Gee'd up

Stressed. Off to the doctor's first thing where I found in the waiting room a leaflet about erection problems I'd written about ten years ago prominently on display. Still standing, I thought as I scooped one up to keep as I am useless at retaining samples of this kind of work.

Then the nurse syringed my ear, and talked to me a good deal when my head was full of bubbling surges. It needed two attempts and then, miraculously, for the first time in three weeks I could hear again, in stereo too. Everything seemed very loud.

After a couple of hours of various types of house and neighbour nonsense, I scooted up to London to Gee Street quite near the Barbican, arrived a little early and marvelled at St Luke's a church now used by the LSO and co-built by Hawksmoor, which has the strangest tower I have ever seen on a church.

Then a meeting with the nice Melody Dawes to discuss my book proposal. She explained that the publishing model had changed recently and her company were focusing on highly instructional books for a postgraduate audience - so although she would pass it on to the commissioning editor, it probably does not fit their remit -- although it was intriguing. However she really liked what I'd done, so they would consider commissioning me to write books for them in future. So, all-in-all, considering this is the first people I have sent it to, definitely a result. The book is not yet rejected, I might be commissioned to write for them, I have learned lots from Melody about the publishing landscape from their perspective and I came away feeling very encouraged.

Was toying with the idea of lurking in London for a bit but the call of the seagull grew strong in me as I was feeling rather drained from the cocktail of stresses. Home and when Lorraine came home we went for a walk to another house we might put an offer on, and then past the house which we should be moving into. On that front the owner has now decided that she might want to move out after all. We are pursing plan B however until something definite happens. We popped into a nice pub nearby, which would have been our local if we had moved into the original house, for a soothing cold beer and to discuss our many options.

Below St Luke's.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Quiet before the storm

A thirsty night of wine and cheese-fuelled dreams: huge-jawed dogs biting each other's heads. Up for a breakfast of buttered toast and jam, and Lorraine fashioning a sheet into an Ancient Greek costume with a few safety pins and one of Anne's old gold coloured belts for Klaudia and then teaching her and Anton how to reassemble it at home. Oskar pleading unsuccessfully with me to dangle him upside down again, which my boozers' fragility ruled out.

Fond farewells to Anne, who it had been lovely to see, then Anton drove us all back to Brighton, through a strange day with the sun filtered whitely through the mist. I sat on the back seat with the bairns and they comically clung onto me when it was time to get out of the car. A surprisingly difficult and undignified struggle.

The remainder of the day spent quietly, nursing a thumping headache and reading the Kinglsey Amis letters written in his twenties to Philip Larkin. A mixture of rage, anxiety, soft porn and notes about Jazz filtered through a juvenile, but funny humour. Lorraine and I went for a stroll in the park and discussed our complex, life changing moves for tomorrow: a day of big property decisions and a trip for me to London to discuss my marketing book proposal with a publisher called Melody. Never a dull moment.

Below Lorraine and Klaudia in a curiously distorted iPhone snap.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Poetry and a party

Up early to get ready for the man to come and fix our roof as I organised on Tuesday. A porridge breakfast with my lovely wife, which Beth declined. Lorraine went out to get money to pay the man, who simply didn't materialise.  When I phoned him about it, he said he had forgotten. I intend to take a roofless approach with him next week.

Then up to London today to 'Free Verse' The Poetry Book Fair at the Conway Hall in Red Lion Square. There was a noisy protest in the square, not of poet-haters as you might imagine but by people concerned about the NHS.  I met Robin in the hall and we had a good couple of hours, chatting to lots of small press poetry folks - a challenge with one functioning ear in the noisy hall. A genuinely inspiring range of publications on show. Being with Robin made the schmoozing much better, although flagging we slipped away to a nearby boozer for a quick drink and a chat after a while. But there was lots of food for thought at the event, and I feel that I am getting to know Robin better too. Well worth going from a poetry point of view, and I had an interesting conversation with a Scot about the independence vote. He said people were really reacting against the campaign to frighten them into staying part of the Union.

A bus then to Waterloo, then a train to Staines and walked to Anne's house at Farmer's End, a stone's throw from the Thames. In the winter the floodwaters miraculously stopped at her gate, as her house is a couple of feet higher than the rest of the road. The evening was all part of Anton's birthday month. Anton had driven Lorraine and the bairns there, and Brian had come too. Good to catch up with Brian and Anne, who is thinking of moving to Brighton. Lorraine had been mowing the lawns in the afternoon, while Anton was off shopping and collecting Brian.

A really nice evening socialising, and eating barbecued steak, ribs and (specially for me) bits of chicken. Drinking lots of rather excellent wine, and addressing a table groaning with cheese. Good to spend time with my Godchildren, playing Skalextric racing cars with Klaudia, holding Oskar upside down etc.  Klaudia making me read more from this blog to her, particularly laughing at this post from some years ago.

Brian home in a taxi, the rest to bed, I sat up chatting with Anne for some time before going upstairs to join my snoozing wife. A really enjoyable evening.

Friday, September 05, 2014

To the wire

Breaking off this morning twice to look at other empty properties that need work. Increasingly warming to this idea.

Work mentioned by the agency did not materialise, so went to the gym again but felt leaden.  Ended this stressful week by doing a small amount of work for the German clients. In the evening Lorraine and I had a takeaway and watched a couple of excellent episodes of The Wire.

I am reading the collected letters of Kingsley Amis. They make me laugh, although I disapprove of myself as I do so. Betty arrived home late just before bedtime, tired but cheery.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Starting again

Long and good chat with Mum this morning, and again later in the afternoon after we got Toby's message that he and Romy were flying off to Japan. It's at times like this that there are disadvantages in having a far-flung family.

Later I went round to Janet and Ken as I hadn't been able to reach them by phone. Just as the stress was lifting after the turbulent granddaughter had been returned to Italy, Janet has discovered a lump in her breast and is going into hospital to have it checked out next week. Ken looking brighter than he has for some time however.

Home to get some of the drips of agency work done that have come through in the last week done. Also had a long chat with Bob. Good to hear from him, and Carl, Bob and I are planning to meet up next month in London.

Later in the afternoon Lorraine and I looked at another house, and Lorraine booked up a couple more for us to look at tomorrow too. Starting again, we are adopting a new strategy, looking at houses that are cheaper, empty and in need of lots of work. This one turned out to be in an ideal location, at a price we could afford without a mortgage, but it would need some structural work. Quite stimulated by this rethink, not least by the idea of having no mortgage.

Another walk around the park this evening, and a quiet night.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A tough day

This morning it has become clear that the woman we are buying the house from has done nothing since she accepted our offer to move out. She is evading the issue as are her solicitors.  I spent the morning terrifying the estate agents, but it seems we have no option but to start looking afresh.

Glancing at Facebook on my return from the gym I learned that my friend Sarah Sprinkles had died. She had been fighting cancer for several years now, but she was incredibly brave, humorous and inspiring to others during this period. I've never met anyone like her - and although I knew she was ill I hadn't realised how critical this had become. 

Then shortly after this Toby contacted me with the sad news that Hiroko had died suddenly last night at home in Japan. I am upset about this, as Hiroko has been unfailingly kind to me, and she is such a characterful person, often crackling with humour. I have had many good times in her company, and one particular night singing and drinking with her in a Kyoto snack bar at the end of 2006 I will never forget.

Romy had been speaking to her only the day before, and I feel very much for Romy, who has also had Ethan's death to contend with recently. 

Spoke to Mum saying that good news is hard to find at present. Left feeling a bit numbed, and was pleased to see Lorraine back from work and to walk about the park. 

Then some unexpected good news. The proposal I sent to the publisher Kogan Page about my marketing book  appears to have piqued their interest, and I have been invited to have a chat with them next Monday.

Below Hiroko and I in Japan on my first visit there in Jan 2007, and Hiroko at the head of her table in January this year, on the night before Lorraine and I flew home.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Scorning zero

Working again today from home, but found time to creak off to the gym in the afternoon. Up early and worked on a poem I wrote in Greece and I think it may be a cracker.

Anton and Bob's birthday today. Unable to contact the Old Mad Dog, but luckily well able to celebrate Anton's birthday which had a sensitivity-provoking zero in it. I spoke also to Carl and Ellie, whose birthday it is on Thursday.  

In the evening, off to the Shakespeare's Head where we met Anton, Klaudia and Oskar, and Dawn and Rosie. A very cheery evening, with sausage and mash and the kids behaving in an exemplary fashion, and quizzing Dawn about Annie the ghost in her new house. I am not sure if Dawn is entirely comfortable with the idea of Annie, but she was quizzed gamely anyway. Good to see Rosie back from Greece looking relaxed and happy. Anton liked his presents, and Dawn organised some brownies with candles and the pub sang Happy Birthday and he generally came away feeling less a'feared o' the zero.

Below, back row Rosie, Dawn and Lorraine, front row, Klaudia, Oskar, Anton and me. Below Anton and the bairns. Oskar loved the shark poster he found in the pub.

Monday, September 01, 2014


Working from home on a full day's freelance. Lorraine also able to work from home today too, which was nice. Neither of us particularly enthused by the prospect of work, but all well. After work went off to my doctor to show him my blocked ear, and arrange for it to be syringed. My life is full of such glamour. Had to wait a long time for the privilege in the waiting room, and found myself unable to press on with Paradise Lost, but instead resorted to Tetris.

Back home briefly to eat the world's tastiest chicken, ham, leek and tarragon pie, fashioned by my lovely wife, before heading back out with Beth, John and Lorraine to see Lucy, starring the highly-watchable Scarlet Johansson who we'd last seen in the excellent Under the skin. Lucy was a bit of a SF romp and not so memorable, but it was nevertheless entertaining in a blood spattering way, with a few nicely weird moments, and short too. Lorraine and I quite enjoyed it, but it was everything Beth hated.

From there to have a single drink in The Basketmakers, where we bumped briefly into Carrie, before Lorraine and I repaired sensibly home leaving John and Beth to the Hare and Hounds. Went to bed and started reading the poems of Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer before sleep.

Below Scarlet Johansson in SF mode again.