Wednesday, July 29, 2015

To Greece

Having been working till late the night before, then packing, Lorraine and I sprang up at 4:15. Rather an appalling time. We dragged our cases, thunderously, down the roads to London Road station and got a train to Gatwick. Slightly delayed flight, but all good on the journey, apart from being charged an outrageous 8 euros on the plane for two cups of tea.

That familiar wall of heat as we stepped from the plane in Kavala airport. A transfer to a minibus, then to a ferry boat where we sat in the air-conditioned cabin and there I enjoyed a can of cold lager, followed by another can of cold lager. Off in Thassos Town back into the minibus and off to Skala Potamia. It had been many years since I'd been to Thassos, and apart from its greenness, I recognised little. Our hotel, was opposite the sea. Not a particularly warm welcome there, but it was clean and functional. A quick swim too to cool down made us feel much better. The sea feeling bathtub warm almost, and a beer in the bar then made us feel altogether cheerful.

Lorraine and I then walked, rather braindead and tired along the shore, lined with tavernas and having rather too much of a whiff of seaside resort about it for our liking. We found a bench at the end of the bay and sat there looking up at the forested mountain Ipsarion and the sea which rather dwarfed the strip of tavernas and felt somewhat reassured.

Lorraine suggested, brilliantly, that we tackle the tavernas alphabetically, so went to one called Athos, which turned out to be excellent. I had a pizza.

Back to the hotel early though. A quick drink in the bar with the owners. I made the mistake of being sympathetic with the Greeks about the current economic situation, and said this is one reason we returned to Greece. This misinterpreted as pity, which didn't go down particularly well.

To bed, exhausted. Good air-conditioning was a boon. Trying not to look a picture on the wall of flowers, one of which appeared increasingly like a screaming head with its tongue out when you looked at it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Getting ready

Final day in Tavistock Square before heading off to Greece tomorrow. A mystery solved too about why work had been a bit thin on the ground this year, my chums in Tavistock square had assumed a conflict of interest because I was working with the guys in Chiswick. There is none, but this goes some way to explaining why I kept being dropped at the last minute for jobs. Now I know what the problem is, the misunderstanding can be cleared up.

Otherwise having worked through the last couple of weekends, and having some last minute stuff to do tonight, rather pleased to be finally about the business of packing, and setting the clocks unspeakably early for tomorrow. Snorkel and facemark packed, slumped exhaustedly into bed.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

From Pluto to Eden

Lorraine up very early and went off to pilates, then she and Beth went to visit Pat and Maureen.

In the no rest for the wicked department, I however, spent the day working on freelance stuff. I did break off to watch a Sky at Night special on Pluto, which was rather amazing. An interview with Brian May who was there at Nasa too. Having met him a long time ago, at least this was a tiny connection to the great events. Seems like Pluto is actually a binary planet with Charon its chief moon, and they are learning new things about it every day since the recent flyby by the New Horizons probe. Love seeing the shots of the surface of the planet and discussions of what it all means. Also made time for a much-needed snooze this afternoon.

Off this evening to the Duke of York's where I met Dawn and Ellie in the bar, and a few minutes later Lorraine and Beth arrived. Once there I registered we were going to see a French movie called Eden, which I found rather excellent. It is a story of a boy being a House DJ in the 90s in Paris. He is obsessed with music, and spends a decade lost in it. It is a movie about clubbing, but is gorgeously done and full of understated drama and thoughtfulness. We all liked it.

A still from the excellent Eden.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Reaching the end

Up and into London again, happy that the end of the week had been reached. Not having to take my laptop into work, was a boon. Instead read High Windows by Philip Larkin again on the train. After reading Jorie Graham the American poet over the last few days, it is lovely to read something that is a sheer pleasure.

Fernanda, with whom I was working this week, having root canal work this morning. But we presented our work in the afternoon and this went well enough. Nice to work with her and Slug again. Stayed at my desk all day, not least because rain was hosing down enthusiastically outside. Successfully met Beth on the train home, with a nice little girl called Aisha who she had been chaperoning to a London audition. Beth and I then taxied from Brighton station, waiting in the long queue and observing a man in a bird suit, perhaps on a stag weekend, venturing into the miserable stair-rod rain. Fantastic to be at home, and Lorraine had made some diet turkey burgers. Early to bed, very weary and with the prospect of having to work this weekend too. Still, the Kenny coffers were much in need of a decent bout of work.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Constant work

So now working constantly. Third day of working in London after my surprise call on Monday evening. Back with my chums in Tavistock Square. First Matie popped in on a social call (as she'd worked there for some time). Also nice to see my other friends who work here. Feeling pretty tired as I started the week feeling underpowered, and I've also had to work on some stuff for my French client at night and on the train. I will be working through the weekend.

Nice to be in London though, and pausing to look at the caryatids near Euston station. I love seeing these things and have tried to write a poem about them before. And today I melted away from my desk in the afternoon and walked around Tavistock Square and looked at Gandhi for five minutes.

Home and reading poems and listening to podcasts. Lorraine and Betty still doing the diets and so on. Naturally now Lorraine is working at home, I am in London. So it goes.  Falling into bed like an exhausted dog, and Lorraine reading the last of the novel Kokoro to me in a wifely way, which we have almost finished now after about six months.

Below a couple of snaps made while walking from St Pancras. Newton outside the British Library, and the caryatids.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Folk night

A peaceful Sunday, and off this evening to the Brunswick for a Folk Night. The Shakespeare Heptet were playing, tonight featuring just Richard and Dipak and the singers Sylvana and Rebecca, in a hark back to the original Shakespeare Trio.

There were two other acts, and a troublesome drum playing woman who invited herself onstage to ruin the last song of the first act and then had to be asked to leave after playing her drum really badly from the audience in the second act. The second act were called Grand Palace, a subtle brush-playing drummer and a woman with a lovely voice and songs. The Shakeys were fine and it was good to hear a cleaner sound. A good chat with Dipak who we sat with, and his pal Michael, and said hello to Richard and Maria Grazia.

Enjoyable night, and I had a few beers and relaxed greatly.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Happy Pottering

A happy day spending quality time with Lorraine. Up early, and organising things from the safety of bed, such as booking a holiday in Greece, by way of expressing solidarity with the Greeks and having a top time too, we picked up something of a bargain as well. This done Lorraine drive off to do pilates and I walked down to the gym, through the sunny park, where I pushed myself still trying to make up lost fitness ground. Feels really good to be doing physical stuff again. We are turning things around together, which is good. Beth and Lorraine are going onto a full blooded diet next week, involving drinking shakes and so on. I will continue on solids.

Lorraine and I arrived home at the exactly the same time and spent the afternoon in the garden, cutting back and replanting. A wealth of blooms in the garden with too many flowers to name. A chat with Jenny next door who gave us a lavender plant, and said her son Robbie was running in the European Junior athletics championships for the first time in the 15,000 metres. Lorraine checked later and he had come 5th, which is impressive.

I was also emailed by Josephine Corcoran who said she would use one of my poems on her And other poems site in November, which is cheery.

I cooked us a vegetarian chilli and we watched the last Harry Potter movie that was on TV and shared a bottle of wine. I'd lost track of the Potter films, and didn't read the last four of the books, but it was fun anyway. Quick facetime chat with the Tobster too. A happy day.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Memories and prospects

Up to London early this morning, sauntering down to Preston Park before seven. Arrived in Turnham Green and was in the office before Matty. A pleasant day. With two meetings, one with our nice new client who taken me under her wing at the conference I'd been to recently, and the other with a really nice film-making duo. From various conversations it emerged that I might be asked to go on location, probably Africa, in October. An exciting prospect for a first-time trip.

After work enjoyed a couple of beers and a long chat with Matt about all kinds of subjects in the The George IV, although much changed it is a boozer woven into my personal history. Matt and I sat outside looking up at a door served by a wrought-iron staircase into an upstairs room I used to read poems in as part of The Wooden Lambs group, apart from the purely recreational drinking that went on at other times when I was a denizen of Chiswick.

Home then on the train, surrounded by talking animatedly about England's dismal day's cricket against the Australians. Pleased to be home, and Lorraine fed me noodles, and I fed myself disgracefully with ice cream. All well.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


As if by magic have clarity on what needs to be done, and in what order. Worked hard all day and some of the evening entirely focused on finishing the marketing book. I am a few working days away from it being done, so I need to get the bloody thing completed without prevarication. To that end worked like a maniac most of the day, and well into the evening too. The relief of the mental log jam breaking is hard to convey, and I am convinced it has something to do with exercise too.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Fresh starts

Lorraine up very early this morning, so I did too. Both of us had a poor night's sleep.

I climbed into a notional helicopter and peered down on my activities. I'm usually pretty good at managing my workflow and not prone to prevarication, but I seem to be frittering time on inessentials so spent much time today examining my activities with a cold and beady eye.

Made time for a haircut at the usual place. Friendly lot there.

Also today was the day that Lorraine and I nominated to get a grip on weight and fitness. So watching our diet, and I hauled my butt to the gym for, freakishly enough, I can both stand and walk. This time the gym didn't distress my recently torn thigh. Am feeling unfit but better for starting.

Back home for miso soup and noodles, then a bit more puzzling about priorities before walking to Janet and Ken's house. Janet has appointed me as one of her attorneys should she need help taking decisions in future. Sensible to get this kind of stuff sorted. Need to get my will sorted out so I can leave the vast Kenny estate to a distressed tropical fish home. Ken a bit croaky with a new cold, and Janet saying she is beginning to feel her old self in flashes after the radiotherapy, which is good news.

Lorraine and I had a much needed quiet night. Reading a bit more of John Ashbery, who I like in flashes. And I read more of the Japanese book we have been sporadically reading each other since January. About 80 percent done.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Edgware steakout

Off to Edgware to see Mum and Mas. Rather rainy day, which in horny handed son of the soil mode I was pleased to see. Long journey with traffic jams, however but listening to a Kermode and Mayo film podcast is perfect for this kind of thing.

Finally reached Edgware and we went to the Miller and Carter steakhouse. A large and pleasant place, where we went to a steak eating booth, and sat under a painting of red cattle, near a window with a metal sculpture of a stylised cattle head. I had chicken, and so did Mas. Lorraine had salmon and mum had ribs. I expect the steaks are good there though. Mason talking about a barbers he visited as a child where the kids sat on merry-go-round horses.

Back to Edgware and I showed Lorraine the concrete dog and plastic grass next door, and we looked at Mum's paintings of Guernsey again. I love the view of La Rue Des Grons in the rare snow, painted from upstairs in the old house. A good deal of chatting to be done.

Then fond farewells, and similar delays on the way home. Glad to be climbing stiffly out of the car in Brighton to be greeted by milling about cats.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Up and about

Lorraine and I up and about late and after breakfast walked down to London Road caught a train and went for a wander around Lewes. Lurking in the lovely Southover Grange Gardens, and then nosing about in a few shops. I bought a couple of teeshirts on sale from Fatface, and then a booklet for a £1 about Guernsey published in 1964, featuring for me nostalgic colour pictures of The Sarnia mailboat, that we travelled on many times, as well a photo of BEA Vickers Viscounts in the airport.

Back home briefly where we joined forces with Beth and caught a bus into town, where we met Rachel and Andrew, and their daughters Hattie and Libby by the pier, and had an Indian meal with them. Lorraine is Hattie's Godmother. I liked Rachel and Andrew a good deal, having only met them briefly before, and the girls were full of personality. Rachel had taught both Sam and Beth when they were little. Hattie had recently been to China, and told us about seeing pandas, staying with a family there, and the scariness of shopping in a market where the market people were dropping things into one of the party's bags, to accuse them of stealing, or buying chop sticks which turned out to be different sizes. Fond farewells then Lorraine, Beth and I popped into The Bath Arms before Betty went off to meet Laura and her Irish cousins and head off to a club.

Slightly annoying journey home for Lorraine and I as our bus not listed despite us having bought return tickets we caught a cab instead. Watched the bus sail past us while the cabbie took the wrong route home. Still, home safely and a rather good day, and one away from computer screens which was rather good.

A view of Southover Grange Gardens in Lewes.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Milked out

Pressed on with the cow diseases but had milked my brain of all possible ideas by mid afternoon, brain frazzled but having done some decent work. Sat out in the garden late afternoon under the lilac tree where I disturbed the fox, and tried unsuccessfully to think about poetry. Although I glanced again at the Your name here book by John Ashbery, and found I still liked the poems I'd liked yesterday.

Spoke to Sonia again today, who was again laughing about Greeks, saying that if they made an allegiance with Russia, they'd have to pay the money back.

Very welcome when Lorraine returned home, and we I walked down through the park, and made off to The Batty with the idea of sitting in the sun garden. But we sat indoors instead, as this was crammed. Here we discussing lots of stuff with her to do with my business, and writing and so on. She is tremendously good to talk to about things and has a knack for tree/wood discernment. Then where we met Beth, fresh outta Eastbourne, and John for a bite to eat and some beers. Lorraine and I caught a cheery cab home.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Greeks and gardens

Plodding along with the cow work. Broken by an occasional stretch of my legs around the garden or the park. Little to report today, other than I got a voicemail message from Bob saying among other things that he'd broken his ankle, which sounds ouchy.  Following the Greek crisis quite a bit. I hate to see the Greeks blamed for the failures of global capitalism, and being lazily portrayed as workshy tax dodgers while their pensions are being halved by the governments, and employment tumbles. I've met many decent, hardworking folks in Greece.

Lorraine, Betty and I eating salmon outside in the garden tonight, plucking a few strawberries from our strawberry pot, and then doing some watering. A garden connects you to the outside world, a world beyond the advertising concepts for cow ailments that has big skies and flowers.

In the evening persisting in my reading of John Ashbery, who whenever I've read him thought he was tripe, so imagine my disappointment when I was reading some of his poetry last thing at night and suddenly found myself liking it a great deal. It is annoying to have to overthrow your prejudices, but I find that I learn most from people's work I don't like at first. Meanwhile Lorraine reading a murder book, as there is something comforting about a good murder last thing at night.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Top to bottom

More bovine mastitis for much of the day, which was mootastic. Also had Defenders of Guernsey go live on Amazon, you can download it onto your kindles (and iPad) if you have the kindle app here. I also sorted out the beginnings of an author page here. Been reading Richard's excellent blog and I am going to copy how he has done things and having a separate page for all the stuff currently cluttering this page.

In the evening bused off to meet Anton in Hove at the Temple Bar where we had some excellent Indian food washed down with a few lagers, and discussed among other things his forthcoming trip across the pond and the important matter of the right hat to wear to set an example to Americans. We also discussed Joe, one of our neighbours who was at our garden gathering at the weekend. Anton was racking his brains trying to work out where he'd seen him before, until I mentioned he was a doctor. It seems Joe was once subjected to the sight of a rash on Anton's bottom.

Home by bus, crammed with excited foreign students, to find that Lorraine and Betty had seized the opportunity of my absence to go to the Park View where they listened to jazz and ate a burger. Perhaps this is the beginning of Lorraine turning to the Jazz dark side.

Below Anton and some rather delicious Indian snacks.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

A walk in the park

So the day working on bovine mastitis. Once work was done, I then spent some time sorting out Defenders of Guernsey to make it kindle ready. Actually not too much of a laborious task, although this was only for a text of 13.4 thousand words.

Took myself for an hour's walk having been manacled to my desk all day. Down to the park again which was looking rather glorious, sunny but a stiff wind. Lorraine working late then going straight to her Pilates class, which was a one-to-one. I fed her a chicken stew of my own devising, which went down very well.

Below the meadow flowers in the park, a glimpse into the walled garden, and a gateway sculpture between the Preston Twins, two large elm trees that have managed to evade Dutch Elm Disease.

Monday, July 06, 2015

A frog's progress

And on with work today for my French clients. This week I will mainly be working on bovine mastitis. And I'm pleased to be getting on with it. Rather manacled to the desk though, however when Lorraine came home we went for a nice walk about in the park, across the green where a few people were having outdoor barbecues, and through the beautiful area planted with meadow plants.

Pausing by the pond by the cafe next to the rose garden to look in the newty, froggy pool. Tiny frogs skipping about, and we stopped to watch one progress by the side of the pool in little ant-dodging leaps for a while. This, curiously, was one of the enjoyable hightlights of the day.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Duvet day

Betty and John off to London, early. Lorraine and I did not get out of bed this morning, apart from to make breakfast. Feeling a hungover this morning. Cats lying about with us happily on the duvet. A quiet and cheerful afternoon, much of it in the garden with me catching up on writing this blog, and Lorraine reading the TES with the headline "Do you have that end of term feeling". Spoke to Toby briefly this evening.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Vikings and new friends

Kenny Towers abuzz with activity this morning, Beth off teach and Lorraine and I falling asleep again, then realising I was hideously late for Lewes. Lorraine kindly drove me there then did some shopping for tonight's beano and then went to do her pilates session. I went to the Town Hall in Lewes to attend the Frogmore Poetry/Needlewriters/Telltale stand in the societies fair for an hour.  I wandered about a bit and fell into conversation with the Vikings, a pleasant couple who were fully dressed in dark ages gear and I was invited to heft a variety of weapons including a spikeless mace, a sword and a shield. Their main business is battle re-enactment, and 'competitive' battles, which seems to be a bit like rugby with axes. 

To the stand where I met Jeremy from Frogmore, and spent an hour with Charlotte Gann, who is a fantastic poet and had been kind enough to review The Nightwork for Frogmore. For all kinds of reasons the chat I had with Charlotte about poetry was one of those occasions when you are talking to exactly the right person at the right moment, and she said some things which I found extremely helpful. Charlotte and I also talked to the likeable lady mayor of Lewes, and others including the charming Danish wife of the Viking man, who wanted to join a writer's group. Robin arrived after a while and took over from me on the stand. A quick burst of Telltale business before I melted away back to Brighton feeling really cheerful.

Home and Lorraine and I, with Betty and John later, spent much of the afternoon getting the place straight, and getting the garden ready for the dozen or so guests we had coming around to night. Making mounds of salad, assembling the spidery barbecue, taking chairs outside and so on. People started arriving at around six. Anton first, and I had a cheeky beer with him outside before our other guests arrived. Tanya and Catherine, our neighbour Jenny, and neighbour but one Joe, Rosie and her pal Alice, Helen came and met Lorraine for the first time, Dawn, Steve Cartwright, Laura and her mum and dad Jane and Olli. 

Some potential for humiliation with the barbecue was avoided with the help of Anton, and the sausages were nicely done, with only a medium sized sausagey Chernobyl rising into the skies. 

A good time, with the opportunity to talk to everyone. Enjoyed getting to know Jenny next door, meeting Joe for the first time properly, and also talking to Jane and Olli for the first time too. It was a bit of an eclectic mix of people, but worked out really well. A lovely evening with good friends, and we sat outside with candles till late. 

Friday, July 03, 2015

All's well that ends well

Begun work on my new French briefs (insert Frankie Howerd style titter). I also read something this morning about about breaking tasks down to things achievable in fifteen minutes, called fifteeners. I tried it this morning, with excellent results. Powered through lots of work today, and completed the rewriting of Defenders of Guernsey, which after a final proof read I will attempt to upload in the next few days. Just nice to be able to complete something. A nice chat with Mum this morning too.

Sonia making me laugh by telling me that garlic was 'illegal' in her house, due to Barry's antipathy to it. She was also deriding English reaction to a bit of warm weather.

Lorraine working from home this afternoon, although we spent some of the time looking at a local young fox snoozing through the afternoon in the back garden. Our cats, and Cactus the next door cat completely unbothered by it. In fact Cactus joined it in a snooze a few feet away.

I ended the week feeling buoyant and cheery unlike on Wednesday. In the evening Lorraine and I walked down to meet Betty in The Open House by London Road station. Betty had been down to see Pat and Maureen, that Shaun the Sheep video won't watch itself, then had been working in Eastbourne. We had a cheeky couple of drinks and a chicken wrap in the beer garden, where I also had a pint of cold lager for the first time in the long and hot week. Very nice it was too. So nice, in fact, that I simply had another one.

A fox snoozes on the shade of our patio.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Balkan dogs of positivity

So what a difference a day makes. Hot night, but I was up and ready to make a difference. Set aside everything in search of a quick win. This was found in the shape of the short story Defenders of Guernsey I wrote for the Guernsey Literary Festival, which I am going to get kindle ready as an experiment, rather than have it languish on my hard drive, I began to fix a few of the problems and typos, and make a few slight rewrites, to republish it in a new kindle edition. Felt good to be tackling the Guernsey Goat again. This is also prompted by Amanda's new game which is in development, and was partly inspired by the story. So why not?

Good news, the pitch I'd worked on concerning the fate of balkan dogs, was won with my creative work. This was a bit of a boost as the last three things I have worked on have all resulted in won pitches. My lovely French clients phoned from Paris and I have two new briefs to work on for next week.

Also received a card from Richard bearing a likeness of la Gran'mère, which is clearly a card of good omen.

By the end of the day I was feeling a good deal more positive than yesterday.

In the evening off to The Basketmakers to meet Glen aka Fingers, who I'd not seen for a couple of years. He is now living in Greece with the charming Eleni, who came to the pub too. Really nice woman, and we discussed the vote to come this weekend in the Greek referendum. Eleni is firmly on the OXI! side of things, which quite frankly so am I.  Matt came too so it was just like old times. We were later joined by Matt's new friend Reuben and we had a really fun evening. Glen is looking very well, and cheery and is sporting a pair of impressive tattoos inside each forearm. One reads Серге́й Рахма́нинов which is his hero Sergei Rachmaninoff, and the other is Eleni's name.

Walked part of the way home, with my evil foot managing the task reasonably well. Home to tell Lorraine all about it in bed.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Black gloom in a scorcher

Very hot in blighty today, apparently a record temperature for July at Heathrow of 36.7C. Working in my office and sitting in the shade in the garden from time to time. Lorraine off to work, and Beth and Laura, who had a sleepover, sensibly off to the seaside. In contrast to the beautiful weather, I spent the day in a deepening gloom, feeling fed up at the futility of all my efforts in every direction. Although I am writing what I think of as one of my better poems at the moment, I learned of a failure in another competition which didn't help. I need a rethink.

Thank goodness for Lorraine, for after I talked to her I felt much better, and did  a spot of hobbly but therapeutic gardening before we ate salady things outside with a happy Beth who'd caught the sun, planning our wee garden party on Saturday.