Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Impulse brick buying

Up fairly early, Lorraine and Beth rounded up the cats and poked them into their basket, but somehow they burst free again and were hard to recapture. Then we dropped Betty off at the station. Regrettable unauthorised No.1 and No.2s in the back of the car. Cats bedraggled and ghastly when the arrived at Top Cats, but were cleaned up and given their shots.

Weasels inoculated off out in the car to Newhaven, where we went to an architectural reclamation yard, and bought ourselves three big sandstone slabs, which were heavy sods to carry through the house and into the garden, and half a dozen smaller ones. The yard's labourers had not turned up, so I hefted them into the car with the woman who ran the place. Also we impulse bought half a dozen half-moon bricks, I can say this is the first time in my life I have impulse bought bricks. After this hefting, what could be nicer than a bowl of steaming carrot and coriander soup?

Watched some TV documentaries about Back in time for dinner which showed a family eating their way through the fifties, sixties and seventies. Brought back some memories, and the family in the show were really engaging and likeable - especially the mother, chained as she was to the kitchen. I think Mum's food was really healthy compared to what some of them were scarfing.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Adding fizz

Lorraine off work, so a relaxing Monday at home fired by an unshakable desire to emulate the willowy Sue and John. So porridge breakfast, a lovely carrot and coriander soup that Beth made and then burnt herself badly on pouring it out, followed by chicken and couscous with roasted veggies for supper. Lovely, and slimming too. Beth eating with her arm in a bowl of cold water till calm reigned again.

I suggested we buy a soda fountain an idea which went down well with Lorraine and Beth who sourced a red one on their iPads. This will greatly diminish our output of empty plastic bottles for recycling. This is mostly my fault as water don't mean a thing if it ain't got that fizzy zing.  We drove off to buy it from Argos, and toilet seats around the corner from the Old Church Hall, and Betty bought turquoise nikes.

Lorraine potted up new seedlings, I replaced a toilet seat, and apart from that now't much to report.
Betty tweeted a photo of Lorraine and I waiting for our sodastream in Argos with the text: feeling uneasy in Argos. #Argos #middleclassproblems #whatsthatsmell

Sunday, March 29, 2015


Clocks sprang forward in the night, the traitors. Up and a croissant breakfast with Sue and a few slow cups of tea. The dog Paddy makes a huge fuss unless he gets his way and has a cup of tea or coffee too. The morning had gone in a flash and so we drove off in search of Sunday lunch, and we had some roast food in The White Hart in Stow in the Wold, which had interesting stag's head wallpaper, and loud-voiced young waiters. Food okay too, which John and I washed down with a couple of pints of Guinness. Fond farewells with Sue and John, it had been jolly good to see them.

Lorraine and I started the long journey home. We stopped off nearby at an architectural salvage place, where the person working there stared at us balefully then ignored us as we mooched about. But we had come for ideas, and did not fork out for any of the overpriced stuff on offer.

Then home, listening to a Mayo and Kermode podcast. A squally day, driving past Heathrow not envying those on the planes taking off and flying straight into a black raincloud. Once home we found that a garden chair and the plastic cold frame, which we had sensibly emptied before we left, were strewn in the garden. Betty and Laura strewn on the gold sofa. Home.

Below skewed window frames in Stow.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Doo wah diddy

Feeling remarkably fresh this morning, considering how tired and well watered we were at bedtime. John had cooked us breakfast and we sat downstairs with him. Sue out about the vital business of having her toenails done.

In the afternoon, under rather threatening skies we drove off to Chastleton House, which it turned out had been used in the shoot for Wolf Hall, and played the part of Wolf Hall itself. Built of honey coloured local stone between 1607 and 1612 it was built a little later than the action of the show, but oozed with antiquity. We walked across a field full of sheep and bleating lambs and into a courtyard and then into the house itself. Rather amazing place, populated with National Trust volunteers ready to shower you with facts if your guard slipped. I found the place rather inspiring, from the rotted book of divine poems found in the rafters, to the embroideries of the planets and their astrological associations (done at a time when say Aquarius was still associated with Saturn, and Pisces with Jupiter as Uranus and Neptune were as yet undiscovered). I particularly loved the long barrel roofed hall.

From here into the chapel next door where we sat in the cold sipping teas and coffees. I had a damn fine piece of fruitcake too.  John and I discussing the evils of religion but fortunately we slipped away before the cross started revolving.

Home, and I had a majestic hour's snooze. This followed by a lovely supper and then off to nearby  Evesham to see The Manfreds, remnants of the band that had a string of hits in the sixties. Fronted by an incredibly energetic Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness from the original band, they actually put on an really good show. Our party was actually on the younger end of the evening's demographic, but after a few beers it was fun. The crowd singing away merrily, and the gig ending with the highly rock and roll... "Goooooood night Evesham!" All of us laughing about the gig on the way back home, but we all enjoyed it.

Home to more wine and cheese, where I put on an all-England cheese eating demonstration, while much else was discussed. The conversation straying onto the significance of sheena-na-gigs whose existence I'd been completely unaware of before John said there was one on a church in Ireland his family had gone to.

Below Lorraine, Sue and John, and the Manfreds on stage.

Some snaps from Chastleton House

Friday, March 27, 2015

Into the country

I'm definitely beginning to feel somewhat holidayish, especially as it was sunny this morning. I went down to the little walled garden in the park round about the time that Graeme was being buried and wished his soul all the best, and hoped those that were at the funeral were okay. Spoke to Maureen today who was very sad because her sister Rena had died. Rena had been ill for some time and so it wasn't unexpected, but these things are always a bit of a shock. I later heard from Katie that the day was a good one, as far as can be expected.

Home and I sat out in the garden for half an hour in the sun with the cats.

Lorraine home after her last school visit of the term, writing up a report.

Off to see Sue and John in the Cotswolds this evening. Set off and got to the bottom of the road, then simply turned around again and collected the stuff I'd forgotten to take. A very smooth nighttime drive where we found ourselves listening to a brass instrument competition for two hours. We would not have selected this on other nights, but found ourselves with opinions about how well euphoniums, French horns and cornets were being played. At Sue and John's house a little before 11pm to a warm and welcome, with wine to be drunk and many chats to be had on many and various subjects. Sue has lost about four or five stone since we last saw her, and she looks fantastic. John is slimmer too and sporting a beard. Lorraine unusually keen for wine tonight, with it being end of term and all and we didn't get to bed till around two, having had a good laugh. There is something about putting a couple of hundred miles between yourself and your everyday life to make you feel relaxed.

A hellebore in our garden, and fritillaria and Calliope and Brian.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Meeting Mari

A day of chats. Glorying in the comfort of my own bed this morning, with no ordeals ahead. A low-impact morning doing a smidgeon of work, chatting to Mum on FaceTime, Mas still needing help getting dressed after his fall. Then chatting with Beth before she left to chaperone a child to an audition in London.

Really mixed weather, in a sunny spell this afternoon I saw Janet and Ken for afternoon tea, and a another chat. I took Janet some anemones as these are her favourite, and I found her outside talking to her Tibetan gardener who has been working to great effect in the little front garden. Janet said he'd done some work on the house next door and was itching to get his hands on her fig tree.  Cue Frankie Howerd Face...

Also chatted to Ken about my French trip, and telling him I wish I'd had his facility for languages. Janet has radiotherapy starting tomorrow, a course that will be complete in a few weeks. While at Janet and Ken I managed to catch up with First Matie, who will be at Graeme's funeral tomorrow in Hartlepool. A sad business.

In the evening I strolled downhill to The Shakey Head to meet Mari, who Anton has known off and on since they were both about twenty. And Lorraine who arrived moments after me. Mari lives in Chicago, apparently not to far from where Toby and Romy were living. Lorriane and I both warmed to Mari, who coped well with the sausage mash and beer diet. She seems to cope well with Anton too. Simply a really nice night, although I did consume a good deal of lager. I am catching Lorraine's end of termishness.

Below Mari and Anton in the Shakey.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pitching in Paris

Woke up in plenty of time feeling rested and calm. Then I realised my reading specs had gone AWOL. Had to get down on my knees, shining my iPhone under the bed, and checked the room over a dozen times before I found them wedged between the wall and the top of bed after twenty minutes my stress levels were restored. Hotel staff were very friendly at The Best Western Diva Opera close to La Folies Bergère, which I could just glimpse if I craned my head out of one of the windows.

All business for me, and I trundled my case around the corner to Rue Papillon where the little agency was, noticing how stylish everyone looked and hoping I didn't look like a tramp in my Berghaus dragging my cheap case. There, after going into the wrong door, I found Valérie, originally from Quebec, who introduced me to her team and gave me chouquette for breakfast with a cup of tea, bless her. I liked Val and her project manager Marie right away. And it seemed the most natural thing in the world to go outside with them to watch them smoke cigarettes, and later share a fast carnivorous lunch at a nearby bistro called the Albion. I had a millefeuille of peach, foie gras and mushroom, for starter and a steak of black pork, which I think may be wild boar, on a bed of creamy rice artfully strewn with artichoke and pea shoots. Both plates looked fantastic and tasted amazing. Small portions but a perfect amount for lunch. Also a small glass of good red wine and a delicious coffee. All this in the company of two charming and chatty Parisian ladies was rather splendid.

Other than this interlude, we worked hard refining the concepts we were going to pitch with. Had to type some stuff on Val's laptop and discovered I was typing gobbledegook. I never knew that French keyboards are configured differently to UK ones. Then in the afternoon we jumped into a cab across town affording me a mini tour of Paris. I'd not been there since my twenties. Newsflash: Hitler was right. Paris is a beautiful city, and needs protecting. The Champs-Élysées was decked out with French and Spanish flags after a state visit, everything gleaming and lovely and Val and Marie pointed out points of interest as we went.

Did the pitch. Valérie is really excellent. This is a woman who could sell snow to the Inuit. I did okay too I think. Really nice clients, and good chemistry.

Fond farewells with Valérie and Marie, who couldn't have been nicer or more friendly. I felt like I knew them really well by the end of the day. They showed me to a cab which took me to Gare du Nord despite nosing slowly through the traffic. In the cab I reflected on how the thought of going to Paris, pitching with a team I'd never met, to a client I'd never met was far more stressful than the reality. I found lots of people spoke to me in English after I'd assailed them with my French too, which is different to how I remember things being in my yoof.

Then the long journey home on Eurostar, focusing on Zombie Gunship on my iPhone while deep under the seabed of the channel. On balance, however, I think I prefer twenty minutes of dark dread to bucking and plunging in the sky. A snatched baguette at St Pancras, then a slow train home. The train stopped at Preston Park and I hurried up the hill, dragging my little case on its rollers behind me.

Home a little before 11 and finding myself delighted to be home in need of a glass of lager from the fridge, as I chatted with Lorraine and Betty. Meanwhile Betty had sprained her ankle today, falling over in the park on the way back from an annoying meeting in London. Lorraine getting very end of termish and giggling after a gin and tonic.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To France

Nervously getting ready this morning, breaking off to chat to Betty. Hopped on a bus and into town, then a train up to St Pancras. Arrived early and hung about in St Pancras for a while looking at the sculpture of John Betjeman, and phoned Mum and Mas. Then onto the Eurostar, the closest thing to a Shinkansen in the UK, zoomed across Kent and even remained calm under the channel trying not to picture myself at an average depth of 48 metres below the seabed, with all the English Channel overhead. Distracted by seeing a Toby-lookalike and also an actor who was in the Spiral TV series we saw on TV (although it took me several minutes to work out who he was).

Strangely once the train surfaced in France I felt as if I'd crossed a weird Rubicon. My apprehension was replaced by pleasure looking out at the flat greyish landscape of northern France punctuated by churches poking up from little villages. I glanced at the man sitting across the isle from me and he was reading Proust's Swann's Way in French on his iPad.

Into Gare du Nord and having used Google Earth for reconnaissance yesterday simply found the Hotel. Paris rainy, but still curiously magical. After dropping off my stuff I deployed my execrable French with abandon and found a Thai restaurant nearby where I enjoyed a couple of Singha beers, and a red chicken curry. I snapped it down quickly as time was running out, what with the clocks being an hour in advance of the UK. To the hotel to iron a shirt, to speaking to Lorraine and write this blog looking at French TV, which as I type is currently featuring giraffes.

And so to bed.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Loin girding

If in doubt tidy up. Went through my desk and thew lots of stuff away, and generally girding my loins for the trip to Paris tomorrow. Google Maps is amazing. I was able to find my way to the hotel from Gare du Nord virtually skipping along the streets. Hope the non-virtual Peter Kenny finds it as easy tomorrow. Little of any consequence to report. Betty on the sofa with a cold, Lorraine writing an interminable report about a school from home this afternoon. I stood in the garden for a few minutes from time to time, sometimes with Lorraine.

Chatted to Matty boy to tell him I was not going to go to Graeme's funeral in Hartlepool at 12:30 this Friday. I wish I was able to be there for Katie and Matt but the logistics were horrendous. Matt doing quite well, and he and Craig helped amazingly with the organisation of the funeral. All such a sad business.

Lorraine working this evening, and I watched a documentary about exoplanets, and how there are 'hot Jupiters' in other galaxies much closer to the sun, and that planets are not always fixed in their orbits and can wander about. Apparently our solar system is unusually configured. Also snickered at an episode of Vic and Bob's new sitcom House of Fools, in which the plot revolved around the fact there was no plot.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Plum job

Frankly it's all about gardening. Lorraine up and out to a South Downs Nurseries and garden centre where we bought ourselves an espaliered Victoria plum tree which will grow flat by the wall, and three pots of red lupins. Then we spent a couple of hours in the afternoon in the garden digging a hole for the tree, and removing a laurel bush with a large root ball which neither of us liked, which made me feel like a deforesting fiend, but Lorraine, breaking off from tying the tree to a bamboo frame and this to garden fence lattice told me that gardeners are unsentimental. I carried on, flinty-eyed till the job was done. I'm finding it all good fun. I need to make a big chunk of cash to turn the garden into an earthly Eden, albeit a tiny one.

In the evening I spoke to Mum and Mas. Poor Mas fell over in a car park yesterday in St Albans with his arms full of shopping. He did not let go of the shopping, fell forwards and has hurt his eyes and landed on his nose. Mum had to ask for help from a man to get him on his feet again. He has two black eyes and is understandably shaken.

Lorraine glum before a demanding week, but she has a break the week following. I indulged in an undemanding episode (i.e. Chelsea won) of Match of the Day before bed.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Reading Lorraine bits of W.B. Yeats in bed this morning, lucky girl. Then L off to spend some time with Dawn and I sloped into town to receive a much needed massage from Jewel, who has massaged me off and on for a few years now. Always surprised by how a deep tissue massage releases strange knots of emotion and anxiety. It triggered fleeting edgy, panicked moments despite the sedative sounds and aromas in her room. As well as loose limbed and beaten up, the experience usually leaves me feeling weirdly vulnerable as if I am crab that's shed its shell.

I flitted home sideways and found myself in need of sleep for half an hour or more. Got caught up in watching Rugby on TV with a hugely entertaining Le Crunch game against France which was exciting.  A cheery evening at home with Beth and Laura, who watched L and I drink a couple of glasses of wine, and provided us with endless entertainment playing with hair extensions and larking about in general.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A glimpse of the eclipse

Lorraine thankfully not on such an early start so a slower start. Lorraine glimpsed the eclipse through the velux window in the upstairs bathroom and called me up. I looked at the sky for a while and saw nothing, then through a thinning in the cloud I saw the sun's outline with a substantial chunk taken from it for a few seconds. I lined up my iPhone to get a snap but the cloud did not break from that moment till it was all over. The temperature did drop, but it never got absolutely dark, just the kind of lifeless grey typical of England.

It is also the spring equinox too, which always makes me feel more lively.

A day devoted to Centaur project I am doing with Helen. Bused over to Hove this afternoon and we worked for a few hours together. She has got an amazing amount already written, and music is flowing out of her. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I supplied some more words, and we discussed where they would fit the overall pattern. Also we listened to what she has got down so far on her Sibelius software, and we discussed at some length various transitions in the music, and how it was reflecting what was going on in the story.

Left Helen's at around 5 and walked home to a cheery evening at home with Lorraine and Betty. Some time ago Lorraine bought me a copy of the Collected Poems by W.B. Yeats in the hardback edition I had when I was in my twenties, but then lent to someone and I never saw it again. Been reading this lots lately, like reconnecting with an old friend.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Leaf watching

Walked up to Downs school this morning to deliver my invoice, then into town to pick up a prescription and go to Sainsburys, little chores but happy to be strolling in the sun for an hour or so. Then home to work on another concept for the French folks, and a little bit of copy brushing on some stuff for Beth. Also sent some more poems out, as lots are pinging back from competitions at the moment as non-winners. Richard though, had some poems placed in the Guernsey poetry competition, which I did not enter, placed fifth and sixth in the Open category, and second in the Channel Islands category. A wonderful bag of placings.

Also sat in the garden for a bit. I have a garden and I can sit in it. For the first time in my life I fully understand why people can become obsessed with their gardens. Birds were singing and there was the sound of children in a school playground on the hill across the little valley. I looked at all the seedlings we have in our cold frame, and at our three shrubs, which seem to be growing before my eyes, and watered a few pots. The cats love it when I am out there too, springing about the place. I find myself looking at leaves.

My Eurostar tickets have arrived for next week. What could be more restful than hurtling towards a pitch in foreign city under kilotonnes of rock and sea?

Lorraine working late, and Beth not at home till this evening, I had a quiet evening feeling somewhat sore-throated. I cooked a pork and chorizo stew and watched an old interview with Jeanette Winterson on iPlayer. I admire her as a writer and a person great deal. I think of her book Why be happy when you could be normal? a lot. Beth home with a cold, Lorraine home very tired. I gave Lorraine stew. And so to bed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Motivation bypass

Unusually low on motivation, despite feeling there was lots to be done. I enjoyed sitting in the garden a couple of times as it warm enough to sit in a fleece and eat miso soup.  One of those tiresome days when I become convinced everything I've written or am working on seems useless. But instead of simply doing something else which I knew was the right thing, I forced myself instead to carry on fruitlessly.

However I did speak to Anton who suggested I download an audiobook called The Establishment, by young leftist firebrand Owen Jones, which is an enjoyably cleansing diatribe against neo-liberal politics. In the evening I cooked a passable turkey and butternut squash curry for Lorraine and I, listening to how The Establishment have got everything sewn up and there's nothing we can do about it.

A chat with lovely Katie this evening, who is holding up well after a harrowing week being with Graeme in his last days. When she got home and fell asleep she began to sleepwalk, something she does when upset and overtired, which freaked Nick out a little. Graeme was lucky to have a friend like Katie, and I'm pleased she's one of my friends too. Meanwhile Matty boy and Craig have flown north to help with arrangements.

Dawn called and spoke to Lorraine, her father is doing okay.

And so to bed, reading another couple of pages of Kokoro by Natsume Soseki aloud to a heavy-lidded Lorraine. It's a good book and it's actually quite interesting to read a book regularly but in small chunks, and Kokoro is perfect book for that, gently seeping into your consciousness over weeks.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A sad day

Sad news today from Matty, who told me Graeme had died from his cancer. Graeme was a lovely man, loads of fun and completely decent and kind. First Matie and Matty particularly loved him, and I feel for them very much. Lorraine and I both sad about his death.

Otherwise I worked more on a big poem on the theme of fear. And talked to agencies. The Paris one definitely wants me to go over next week to do the pitch with them. I was also called by the same agency who phoned me last week offering work. A couple of hours after I agreed to it, I was told they'd changed their minds. To the gym, although not particularly full of oomph today. Home and warm enough to sit in the back garden to have some miso soup. I love having a garden, and I look at few plants we have planted several times a day.

In the evening off to the Stanza poetry meeting. A cheerful night, some lovely people there. Several including one by Tess Jolly which blew me away. An amazing poem. I had a quick drink and a chat with Susan Evans afterwards before cabbing home. Her performance poetry is going from strength to strength.

Cabbed home, and ate a hot cross bun and had a chat with my lovely wife before bed.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mother's day

Scooting about this morning in preparation for Mum and Mas and Robert and Tanya coming down. Really good to see everyone, and get to show Mum around the house, which she declared a good house. She brought a pot of fuchsia with her, a cutting from a cutting from my grandparent's garden in Guernsey. And also to give Mum a Mother's day card.

Calliope took to Robert straight away and covered him in hair and picked his jumper. Tanya worried that Calliope would lick her, and advancing a theory that cats kiss rats so Robert shouldn't kiss Calliope, because that would be like kissing a rat and he is her husband. Not that he was of course, because that would be bizarre. Tanya is retiring this month, after receiving a message from the fates by having a strange car accident where her car suddenly zoomed forward from stationary and ended up deep in someone's front garden.

Lorraine and Beth cooked up a roast and Beth made a bread and butter pudding from hot cross buns, with marmalade glaze, which I had two helpings of.  Nice meal and lots of chatting, then with Mas having a quick doze with Calliope in attendance, the rest of us went for a small stroll in the park.

John arrived to say hello to people, just in time to have a discussion with Mason about propaganda and US news. When it was time to go, there was much admiring of Roberts amazing electric car called a Tesla Model S, which looks fantastic, is eerily silent, has a dashboard full of technology. Being white it also had guano-attracting properties, the local gulls obliging while we were at our Sunday lunch.

As it grew dark, they drove off like a zephyr in the trees, with the loudest noise being the sound of tyres on the metalled road.

Spoke to the Tobster, glimpsed with shortish hair on FaceTime, once while everyone was here and then a bit later. Settling in to Ottowa a little now, and Meatball the cat has a cat tree to sit on and scratch.

Below Robert and Calliope, Beth brings in her pièce de résistance with Mason looking on, Mas and Tanya, Mum, Robert and his Tesla Model S which he says is the best car in the world. I know nothing about cars, and have no interest in them, but I was quite prepared to take his word for it. A lovely thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Shrubs of delight

Off to a nursery to buy hebe, viburnum, and phormium. Weird nursery with the owner surging over to us before we'd even climbed out from the car, offering us advice. Then to another garden centre before returning home. The sun came out, and I felt absurdly happy to be doing gardening with Lorraine this afternoon. The poetic richness of digging chalky ground, scattering the ash of blood fish and bone and so on, hit me.

Our happy day was tinged with sadness though too. We had planned to see Dawn at her cottage this evening, but her father was taken ill and she had to go instead to hospital. She phoned us understandably shocked, but her dad has pulled through.  Also heard from Matty boy and First Matie, who are in Hartlepool with Graeme who is now seriously ill. Felt really sad for Graeme and my friends going through hard times.

After gardening, Lorraine and I went to The Preston Park Tavern for a single pint, trying to book a table for Sunday, but they were booked out as was the was The Park View, when we went there for another cheeky drink. Not particularly keen on cooking so we found ourselves buying fish and chips and sloping home with bags of aromatic booty.

Below the sunset this afternoon.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Con brio

More cattle health concepts for Paris from very early till 1:00pm. Beth off chaperoning a couple of  young auditioners to London.  I sat outside with a cup of tea, breathing in the fresh garden air, and simply wanting to be outside in the garden rather than manacled to my desk. Good to be feeling that way about the garden though.

Sonia roundly told me off as I had made some miso soup and had left one of the burners on the hob on. She explained that she couldn't be there to stop me burning my house down every time. 

Then on the bus to see Helen in Hove, and she played me about nine minutes worth of music from her Sibelius software, she is composing con brio at the moment, and full of ideas. She was asking herself what colours the sections of the music were, for example, and enjoying the transition of colours in sections we were about to work on.

Then home by bus, and after Lorraine finished her work we walked down to The Shahi to strap on the nosebag. Nice to be back there, and to unwind, snapping into poppadoms and beer, and curry. Both of us feeling happy it was Friday. Sauntered back up the hill, this walk healthier than when we used to live on the Shahi's doorstep. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Among school children again

In bed this morning admiring the fantastic job Maureen did, turning a gold throw Lorraine bought at Trading Boundaries into a gorgeous pair of full length gold-coloured curtains. I'm sure the denizens of this part of Brighton are grateful no longer to be glancing up at the Kenny genitals from time to time.

A dreadful night's sleep not helped much by drinking beers on a school night. Not just a figure of speech either, for I spent today with Dawn at Downs School with 32 more able writers of around 11. Clare joined us and was, like Dawn, an excellent teacher. The first part of the day was spent in using words poetically, and in the afternoon I gave them an advertising brief. The morning session worked well, encouraging them to use their senses. To this end Dawn had arranged for boxes into which you pushed your hand to touch things like cold custard, cold spaghetti with lumps, and a particularly unpleasant mix of jelly and suet. Impressive children, some of whom had words like 'catacombs' and 'overwrought' in their vocabularies. As before we also went into the vast WW2 bunker under the playground to stimulate their imaginations and writing.

In the afternoon I gave them an advertising brief, and I have definitely worked with poorer creatives than these children in agencies. Some amazingly characterful and smart children. I quite like doing this work, as it extends the scope of my normal activities.

Home to a request to go to Paris in a couple of weeks to do a pitch one afternoon with the French clients I have been working with.

Below some more snaps of the bunkers at Downs School. The rusty buckets were used as toilets during air raids.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015


A little time to work on poetry before feedback from the French, meant I returned to creating ad concepts for cow health, drawing cows and writing cow headlines, and I'm grateful for it. Meanwhile Brian escaped to resume his fights with other cats. As I was speaking to Mum this morning and had to lob a handy apple core at the evil ginger and white cat fighting with Brian again from my study, to startle them. While in the afternoon was the mysterious case of The Faux Calliope (yet another neighbour cat who looks very similar to Calliope) who managed to get stuck on the window ledge of the spare bedroom. I had to lean out of the window on a stool to rescue it. In thanks the ungrateful wretch hissed and growled in my arms all the way into the garden. These little gardens are a matrix of cat, fox, gull territories.

I finished work, some hasty gnocchi gulped down with my darling wife, then I marched off to meet Anton in the Shaky Head for a few beakers of Heineken, and to watch Anton eat a burger. Anton had many and various subjects to discuss, such as transatlanic affairs and the safe arrival of his Mum in Brighton.

Home again, and glad to slink into bed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Limboish interlude

A pleasant but slightly limboish day expecting feedback from the French on the concepts I'd sent them but answer was there rien. I was phoned by another agency to check my availability, but when I said I was available the offer was quickly withdrawn. Agencies, eh?

Instead I contented myself by going to the gym this morning. Once there I wore my new shorts that reach my knees and make me think of Stanley Matthews (The Wizard of the Dribble). These plus the new trainers and socks made me feel a little better about being there.

Lorraine was working from home this afternoon, writing up a school visit she had done this morning, and pausing to be fed noodles and miso soup at lunchtime.

In the afternoon I wrote a piece about Jane and lookalikes and then Lorraine and I went for a stroll around the park as darkness began to drop.  We were tempted by the fish and chip shop but resisted and I cooked fish and rice and steamed vegetables in an outbreak of healthiness instead.

Monday, March 09, 2015

A nasty nip in the knee

Up and at the cow health brief for the Paris client, which took up most of the day and had me sketching headlines and pictures of lots of cows and blue-tacking scamps to the walls.

Brian got in a fight with a black cat. I witnessed it from my window, the black cat walked incredibly slowly away, and Brian limped home, clearly in pain, to bleed on Beth's sheets. I made an appointment at the vets, and luckily Lorraine was able to drive him off to Top Cats this afternoon to be injected with antibiotics and painkillers. He is now under house arrest for the next three days, but should be okay as it was a nasty nip on the knee, but could have been a lot worse.

Once home Lorraine struggled with a long report. I broke off to cook miso soup with noodles and it with Beth at lunchtime, then walk for an hour this afternoon by way of exercise and to pick up a prescription while I was at it. Laura came around to see Beth and they larked about to cook rather nice chicken wraps for everyone.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Wisterical with added pansies

Lorraine and I keen to do more gardening. In the tiny front garden we planted wisteria, currently a sticklike thing, without becoming wisterical at any point. Then in the back I dug up a small section piece of scrawny turf and planted some plants, and Lorraine planted pansies in pots and in our main bed too. Cats bursting about around us while we worked and Calliope got into trouble with a neighbour cat. There are many cats here and the politics is tangled.

In the afternoon I worked on cows for Paris for a couple of hours. I also messaged the lovely Charlotte Gann to thank her for her insightful review of the The Nightwork in The Frogmore Papers.

Rosie then popped by and persuaded Lorraine and I to go out for a roast supper. We three off to The Park View down the road for a bite to eat, and Beth joined us later. Nice place for a Sunday nosebag, and I enjoyed a pint of Harveys while I was at it, and a good chat with Carl on the phone outside.

Below more chimney pots. These were already in the garden, and Lorraine added pansies.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

All about gardens

A lovely day this morning, and Lorraine and my thoughts turned to the garden. We spent several hours driving about inland stopping off at an architectural reclamation place run by an charming Iranian with a big dog. Some interesting stuff there. We also stopped off at garden centres, pond places and so on. In the last we had a cup of tea and I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of an Eccles cake. We bought a wisteria sinesis, plants in pots, stuff to go inside the composter to spark it into life and so on. Home happily to assemble a small cold frame to put things in.

In the last garden centre Lorraine met a former next door neighbour called Adrian, who had a long chat with us. Lorraine was close to Adrian's mother in her last years, and he gave us a staff discount on all the stuff we bought, which was kind of him.

Cats frisky and happy outside which maddens a small black Scottish Terrier Dexter a few doors down. Just really nice to be outside in our own little garden.

In other news I received a copy of The Frogmore Papers which carried an excellent review of The Nightwork in it.

Meanwhile Jane has been up to her lookey-likey business again in this hilarious advert for The Body Shop.

A relaxed evening indoors. I watched a documentary about Joy Division and then Betty, Lorraine and I had supper and watched the guilty pleasure of The Voice.

Below chimney pots in a salvage yard. I really like them as sculptures.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The mist clears

The mist pretty in the valley below this morning. For me another day working on concepts for a pan European animal health campaign. Getting a bit bogged down in meeting the brief, so had to bump a meeting with Helen this afternoon, to make sure I'd cracked it. Nice and warm in the garden, and I took another cup of tea out there while thinking about cattle and corralling my thoughts.

Beth and Lorraine home together this evening, and we went out to meet Rosie in our new local The Preston Park Tavern where we also strapped on the nosebag. The food there is pretty good. After being cooped up all day, very welcome to be here. Rosie on good form, and cheery. I also asked Beth about her tips for learning lines, as I want to start memorising some of my poems and do them from memory like I used to in the old days, especially as I have a reading next month in Lewes. Beth says she records them in chunks and listens to them on her iPhone. Which is simple but brilliant.

Lorraine had her personal review today, and it went very well. She now has to provide evidence so that she can be moved up a grade. Bloody right as she has been covering three people's jobs for as far as I can remember.

Mist creeping in the valley at 7:40, and a Basil and Calliope playing right angles.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Down to work

Up a tad blearily this morning to take a teleconference at 9.00 for a briefing with Loïc and Valerie in Paris. To confirm I was pronouncing Loïc correctly I simply looked it up on the internet beforehand. Another animal health brief. I have never worked on so many animal health products in a row as this year. A lovely day, outside and I took a short break outside sipping tea with the sun warming my face.

Took as shower after work at around 6 and shortly after Dawn called around. Nobody else in the house I scooted down and let her in, before slipping into something less comfortable. We had a chat about next week's gifted and talented session at school which I will be playing a part in. Be interesting. Also hearing how Dawn, shattered after months of work on her house, has just moved in. After Dawn left I cooked and waited sipping mineral waters virtuously after yesterday's behaviour, for Lorraine to arrive home late after teaching governors.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

A day of friends

Off to Chiswick this morning, and to my dentist Lucinda, for a check up and to moan about a twinging tooth.  Settled back in the chair, and watched the tv screen above me as Lucinda investigated. On the screen was film of a whale corpse on the deep sea bed being grazed on by hagfish which bury their heads and raspy mouths in the rotting flesh. Nice. X-rays were taken and shortly after I was shown my teeth and their roots. The troublesome tooth okay for the time being, as I could see with my own eyes on the screen.

Then downstream to The Bull's Head, now calling itself 'Bull's Head' for some reason, where I met Matty boy and Stephen for lunch and a chat about 11 London. Really nice to get to know Stephen a bit better. A very amiable man, despite having broken his leg a week ago which was still giving him some pain. Like Matt he is a listener as well as a broadcaster, which is refreshing. Stephen hobbled home, and I abandoned plans to do some research in the Natural History Museum and instead had a slow drink with Matt. Jolly nice to be sat in my former local pub near a real fire with a good old friend and shooting the breeze about many and various subjects.

At five thirty I bade Matt a fond farewell then made off to Gunnersbury station and into town, where I met Nev in another of my favorite boozers, The Salisbury. Great to see him, looking almost unchanged. Now back after being in Australia for ten years. Nev and I worked so closely teamed together as art director and copywriter for several years, and so it was incredibly easy just to pick up the threads. Did my heart good to see him, and hear about his time in Australia and the difficult decision he had to  make to return home for his career.

Then the call of the seagull grew strong in me, and Nev had to leave for Northampton. Home and dozing, being particularly well refreshed, on the train. As I'd had no evening meal decided to stop off at Harley's Pizza close to where I live, where I bought a small and very poor pizza which I ate on the sofa watching some footie at 11pm, before I made my way upstairs to wake Lorraine up while attempting to get into bed like a cat burglar.

Below a patch of sunlight near the fire, and Isis Court, where I once lived.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Coffee is better than a book

Poor Lorraine off very early for work. So I got up with her, and had an early start at my desk. At lunchtime to the gym, and also made time to buy some new trainers and gym socks, and a pair of shorts. I was feeling a bit like old man Steptoe in my old stuff. Because I am further away from the gym, the walk there and back again also adds to the exercise.

Lurked too in the bookshop looking at various publishers. There seems fewer actual books in Waterstones now, and there are two cafe areas. People can be made to part with a few quid for a cup of coffee, but parting with a few quid for a book that will enrich their entire lives, and provide a week's entertainment for the price of a two coffees seems a much harder thing to do. Life is strange.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Big picture, small details

Really noticing how being back in the gym again is improving my mood. Also helping me climb aboard my imaginary helicopter and get some perspective on what I am doing, and assessing what's working and what's not by scribbling various bits of mindmaps. Sounds a tad self indulgent, but was actually very useful, and my weird feeling of being blocked and not knowing what to do next is now a thing of the past.

Listening to an audio book called No Such Thing As Society, by Andy McSmith. A history of Britain in the 1980s. Trouble is I keep getting irritated by factual inaccuracies. Interesting how getting little details wrong, manages to undermine the whole enterprise.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Winter gardening

A spot of gardening today, and felt the weak sun on my face and tried to imagine being out there in the warmth. Lorraine and I look at our decking, removed an old metal child's swing frame bolted to the side of the house in the garden passage, and, with the help of Clem our next door neighbour, reattached a bit of lattice to the fence, cut back overhanging ivy, and fed our compost bin with things. Also discovered a hellebore flowering dingily in the back, almost completely obscured by the laurel bush the evil next door cat sits under.  Our first flower.

Then off in the afternoon for a walk and a talk around the park, and the purchase of hot cross buns. Then home to cook roast chicken and eat it with Beth and John, who popped in briefly between band sessions.

And so to bed, Lorraine having to be up hideously early. Still slowly reading Kokoro to each other.