Saturday, December 31, 2016

New Year's Eve

A quiet day pottering about in Kenny towers after the long drive of yesterday. Lorraine and I went for stroll through Blakers's Park and onto the shops to buy some vegetables. Reading and relaxing in the afternoon. I tried several times to come up with a devastating summation of 2016 for my other blog, but failed.

In the evening Anton came around and we sat in the kitchen drinking and eating snacks as Lorraine cooked us a rather excellent chicken and ham pie. Also spoke to Mum at this point too. Anton stiff and in pain from time to time after falling down the hill in Stanmer Park while out with Oskar. However after supper, we settled down to play Small World, a board game Anton gave us for Christmas. I found it rather complex, but it was fun and we drank and played this game, where you took on a Tolkeinesque race, such as in my case dwarves and rat people, and they have a variable special powers. Anton very keen on this game indeed. As usual, when the end came and the dust had settled and you counted up your in-game coinage, Lorraine had won.

Then a slightly strange sequence of events. We decided to go out to a local pub to see in the New Year in the company of other humans. We walked down to the Preston Park Tavern which had closed at 10, mysteriously. Then we walked along to the Cleveland Arms, which Lorraine and I had been to once before and it was like a throwback to the 1980s. This time it was weirder still, crammed with locals who all looked as if they were related to each other, and looking at us in frank astonishment at our entry. We went outside to watch Anton smoke a cigarette and gulped our drinks, and fled. Then to the Park View, which at least had the virtue of being open and populated with people. We found a seat and midnight came, combined with them turning on the TVs to watch an enormous firework display on the Thames, and Robbie Williams singing. The Park View however was atmosphere-free, apart from a few drunk old men lairily singing Auld Lang Syne. They then pumped the music up to the point we couldn't speak to each other for twenty minutes, then called time. Joked that this would live in our memories forever. However, I got to spend New Year with my wife and my best mate, so no complaints. Fond farewells to Anton and Lorraine and I dawdled home.

Lots of young people on the street, spilling out from the mild mannered party held next door. Quite sweet as we left for the pub, was that the loudest noise from the party was from singing. Toby saw the New Year in somewhat earlier at Makinohara. Pleased that I can picture the scene.

After midnight, Lorraine and I watching Jules Holland on the sofa till we had to go to bed.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Mum's birthday

Thick fog again today. Lorraine and I drove up to see Mum, however the journey up plagued by traffic and thick fog took us almost four hours to reach Barnet Hospital. Lorraine doing heroic driving in difficult conditions. Spoke to Anton en route, turns out he had fallen down a hill playing with Oskar's new motorised car, banged his head, cricked his neck, and bashed up his body. Couldn't feel his arm for half an hour. Apart from a stiff neck he is okay now.

We had planned to pick up Mum but we so late we met her at Mason's ward. Mas sitting up and quite chatty, and seemed to be a bit brighter than when I last saw him. A nice enough ward and a young doctor who mason said, correctly, was a bit of a Clarke Kent. Nice to have Lorraine there, who was chatting lots and feels at home in hospitals having been a ward sister in a earlier manifestation. We gave Mas some Christmas presents, and he was in fairly good spirits.

Drove mum to a nearby pub restaurant for a drink and a meal. Hearty fare there, Mum had a steak and ale pie and I had ribs, and Lorraine had Woodland chicken. Gave Mum Christmas and Birthday presents, from us and Pat and Maureen. She is - REDACTED - years old today. We all enjoyed ourselves, and Mum enjoyed her presents, particularly a nice bracelet we got her for her birthday.

Then nosing back through the fog to Mum's house. Waving at Ben across the road. Sat by the fire drinking tea with the cats. Mum gave us some presents, including a large bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin. An exemplary and well-targeted gift. Fearing the weather, we left at eight, and made it back to Brighton much more easily than the northbound journey. Some bits of the motorway clear of fog, but lots of big fog patches, and Brighton foggy too. Called Mum to say we had arrived safely.

Lorraine had a glass of gin and elderflower and tonic when we got home. Watched Charlie Booker's Screenwipe, and then made off to bed. Despite the traffic and so on, we'd had a really nice day.

Below random motorway shot. Mum opening presents. No.1 told to smile, explains she can't smile in photos. No.2 Pretends to rabidly open a present. Mum busily opening presents.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just the two of us

Lorraine and I on our own this morning, which was peaceful and a bit weird. Floated about tidying and so on. I weighed myself, and recoiled in horror. However if you are not going to be fattest you've been all year two days after Christmas, when are you going to be? A more reasonable day of eating again today. Lorraine and I went for a long walk down to the sea, through the lanes, stopping off for a coffee, and doing essentials like buying ink for my ink pen, and thank you cards that Lorraine must write to the thirty or so kids who brought her presents.

Nice to be sauntering along by the seaside. The sun low and bright forcing you to squint into it. On the other side of the downs the south gripped by fog, but Brighton it was blue and sunny. Much needed dose of sunlight and fresh air. We were tempted by kippers in buns, but decided to wait till we got home.

Eventually hopped on a bus and childishly surged to the front seats upstairs. Two down at heel Spanish speaking South American folks perhaps 20 years old at front like us. From half a globe away, it made me wonder why they came to Brighton, and what they make of it.

Home and a relaxing late afternoon and evening. Just the two of us night in, and I really enjoyed it. Lorraine cooked some exemplary fish cakes which we ate with stir-fried cabbage. A single beer as we watched the Half-blood prince Barry Spotter film on TV.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our visitors depart

Kippers this morning, for hardy lovers of the more aromatic start. Sadly, everyone leaving today,  Pat and Maureen returning to Ashford. We drove them down to the station, and saw them onto the train, laden with bags of shopping and so on. 

A bit later Lorraine drove Sam and Jade and Beth off to the station too. Beth off to stay with John. Sam and Jade off to stay with Gary and Sophie. Me waving them off from the doorstep, and then turning back to the novelty of a house with only me and two cats in it. A successful and fun Christmas, and I enjoyed seeing everyone very much. Nice to spend it with Sam and Jade, which was a first for me.

When Lorraine returned, we ate the last of the turkey pie and after doing a few bits and pieces, sunk into the sofa. We had one glass of wine each, far steadier than previous Christmas evenings, and did nothing in abundance.

Mason is not improving quickly, and just wants to be home. Visiting the hospital every day is a bit gruelling for Mum, but she is resilient. She is getting lots of phone calls and visitors, which is tiring towards the end of the day. Wish I had a magic wand.

A shot of Calliope looking particularly grumpily at me this morning as I lay in bed. Sometimes I am a disappointment to her.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Shops and Baskets

A day of vast shoppings. After the lengthy and important business of breakfast, Lorraine set off into town with Pat and Maureen. I phoned Mum and had a chat, before deciding to walk into town.

Jade came with me and we had a really nice and wide ranging discussion walking into town. She made the very good point of people wanting to leave the UK because of Brexit, are really seeking to live somewhere where there is no politics. On reaching North Street we split up as she had wedding shopping to do. I sought out Lorraine, Pat and Maureen in Churchill Square, busy buying things. After a bit we surfaced and had a much needed coffee. Then Lorraine took Maureen clothes shopping next door, which Pat and I were able to duck out of and chat in the cafe instead. Then the mission that is M&S. After scorning many coats, Maureen found a furry green coat. This Pat claimed to pre-fur, and she bought it.

Pat and Maureen then caught a bus home, and Lorraine and I went into the North Laine to meet Beth and Sam and Jade. Went to a shop with a nice suit, possibly one Sam could wear on his wedding. But sadly the arms were too short among other things. One of the penalties of being six foot five or six. Popped into Gresham Blake to look at their clothes, before the call of the Basketmakers grew strong in us, and we popped in for a few drinks. Sam particularly liking being there, as the pub is the family favourite.

After this we all clambered into a big cab home. Lorraine baked a glorious fish pie, and a glorious turkey pie. I talked, ahem, slightly merrily to Mum and to Ben who was visiting her. Had a bit of a laugh though.

Below in the Basketmakers.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A stroll by the sea

Everyone able to rouse themselves from the Festive Boxing day stupor this afternoon to go down to the sea. Lorraine ferried everyone down to Hove. I had a stroll along the seafront with Pat and Maureen and then photographed them keeping warm in the cold. The sun slowly setting, clear fresh day though, and it blew the cobwebs off. Then Lorraine arrived with the others. I snapped Jade and Sam looking at at the sunset, and Beth took the groupshot.

Then home to continue eating our own bodyweight in food, and I chatted to Mum on FaceTime.  Lorraine, Jade and I sat up late watching the movie Pitch Perfect, which I enjoy far more than I know why.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas day

Up early, with the excitable hellos of Jade and Beth, and Sam looking into our bed room with a penguin hat on. Up and straight down for the stocking presents, eagerly attended by Sam and Jade and Beth.  Lorraine playing the Santa's elf. Much excitement, and a tribute to Lorraine's shopping skills. We added a wrapped parsnip for Beth's stocking.

We made our way to the kitchen, and then two shelves of the food cupboard collapsed as Lorraine was in it. Amazingly no breakages, and Sam handily mended the shelves again. Lorraine said we needed a new kitchen.

Then with Pat and Maureen a big present-opening spree. I got a very nice bag, big enough to got to the gym with, and carry a laptop. Also Lorraine got me tickets to see my favourite comedian Stewart Lee, and a framed photo of Moulin Huet with I love Peter written in the sand.

Two chats with Mum today, who my thoughts were with a lot. In the morning, she had already been round to several neighbours dropping off cards and so on, and having chats with several of them. Later she was at home, about to have a gin and tonic. Felt a bit sad that she was of necessity on her own, and that Mas was at hospital.

Toby and Romy in Taiwan at present. The Tobster arriving on Christmas Day after an epic flight via Honk Kong.

I went to the Preston Park Tavern with Pat, and Sam followed us on a little bit later. When Pat and I got to the pub it was crammed with people, and teeming with children, and the bar was three deep and service slow. We found a table in the back garden with a electric bar heater, which we shared with some Brazilians. Sam came and found us and we had a fast drink there and a nice chat, before coming home to help with preparations. I dug chairs out of the dungeon,  I carved the turkey. As I was doing so Janet and Ken arrived. Quick hellos with them, then Pat told me that the coat hanger rack had broken and there were coats everywhere.

Still somehow we managed to get all the amazing dishes onto the table, and ourselves too with wine and bubbly and so on. And a pretty amazing feast Lorraine and Beth had cooked up. Delicious stuff. Including the PK pleasing mushrooms cooked in sage and butter, as well as turkey, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips, Brussels sprouts, beetroot in white sauce, carrots, red cabbage, various chestnuty, sausagey and sage and oniony stuffings and probably lots of things I've forgotten. Then, much later, Christmas Pudding, one of which I set aflame with rum, to the mild disconcertment of Lorraine who for all kinds of understandable reasons doesn't much like fire and flames.

On great form today, Ken sang lots of songs for us, and several joined in with him. Lorraine found a Spotify singalong favourites playlist. After much singing and so on Janet and Ken made off in a taxi, and we continued. The evening ended for Lorraine and I long after midnight playing charades with Beth, Sam and Jade using a mobile phone pressed to your forehead. All very cheerful, and all in all a lovely Christmas Day.

First thing in the morning, Sam and Jade and Beth in their various PJs opening stocking presents, our Christmas Gathering, LtoR Lorraine, Ken, Janet, Maureen, Pat, Jade, Sam and Beth. And another one with part of my face in it.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

All up early. I zoomed around to Choice Cuts where I was able to pick up the preordered turkey and a large pork pie. Unlike last year it only took me ten minutes. Couldn't help but look at the turkey and wonder if it had also voted for Christmas.

Chats with Mum of course. Mas still in hospital, and will be for Christmas sadly.

Lorraine and I off to do a spot of shopping very locally with Lorraine. Jade and Sam went into Brighton. Pat and Maureen off to buy some presents for the cats. Beth became a baking goddess for much of the day, helped by Lorraine. The Kenny Towers kitchen turning out cheese twists, mince pies, flans, sausage rolls, baked salmon, ham cooked with cloves and marmalade, little pies and much more.

In the afternoon, Lorraine and I drove to Anton's to drop off some pressies for my Godbairns.  Saddened to see that Oskar was wearing a Manchester United shirt. Nice to chat with the kids.  Klaudia telling me the funny story of Oskar's girlfriend who had asked Oskar out, and given him his first task, which was to tell her previous boyfriend that he was dumped. The politics of ten year olds.  She smartly stopped Oskar's mouth when he tried to reciprocate.

Nice to see Anne too, and share a cheeky half with Anton before we went again.

Home to a gargantuan spread of the aforementioned flans and pies and baked salmon and pickles and cheeses and so on, which I fell on like a famished hyenas. I had four platefuls, later I felt very full indeed. It was hard not to, however, because everything was so nice.

Pat, Lorraine, Beth, Sam and Jade and I went off to the Preston Park Tavern to get some air, and a beer later in the evening. Ended up playing a guessing game, where you had to guess the present to bring to gain admission to a party. The answer, such as only green things, or four letter things, lies in the head of the person holding the party. Amazing how hard spotting the categories was, even though the answer was staring me in the face.

Home in the wind and very mild evening.

Friday, December 23, 2016


A day of preparation. Lorraine and I mooching about in Brighton, with a few last things to buy including a present for Mum's birthday. It was fun.

Off to Brighton Station at tea time to collect Pat and Maureen from the train.  I helped Maureen over a dangerous chasm from the train onto the platform, only ruining it by mentioning to her that this may be the opportunity to do away with her as I did so. We drove them home safely and got packed, and Pat and Maureen added to our pile of presents. Sam and Jade arrived in the evening, and suddenly the Christmas players were all assembled, by close of play. A few drinks and a some cheer.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Letting the salmon out of the bag

A night of weirdly terrible dreams. In the morning listened to Jane chatting on JKT's BBC Guernsey show reading poems and being interviewed about being a poet and a Camila lookalike. Some lovely stuff, and as a lover of puns, I particularly enjoyed her puntastic poem about a vegetarian Christmas. Hear Jane here, at 2 hours 52 minutes.

Beginning to feel distinctly Christmassy now. The humongous food shop today in Sainsbury's, which luckily enough was remarkably uncrowded. This all went well, apart from the bit where I found myself struggling with a large Scottish salmon, which began to slip out of its long bag at me as I was handling it at the till. Drove home and unpacked the sacks of provender, the house now groaning with foods of all kinds and an embarrassment of boozes. 

Off in the afternoon to drop in on Janet and Ken, to swap presents and invite them around to strap on a Christmas Day nosebag with us. Ken looking very well, and we had cups of dragonfly tea and biscuits and a good chat.

Then home, both feeling tired tonight and enjoying a night at home, me watching Lorraine wrapping presents with tireless efficiency. Beth arrived late in the evening too.

After trying to get hold of Mum during the day, we spoke this evening.  Mason is back in hospital, having gone for some check-ups in the morning, the doctor thought he needed to go back in, as he was finding breathing difficult. He is back at Barnet Hospital. A tiring day for Mum, who had to twice go to Barnet hospital  to bring Mason his CPAP machine. Felt a bit concerned that Mas was back in hospital, but Mum said his breathing had been difficult.

Contacted by E.Ratio with a proof of my postmodern poem, set to go live on 1st Jan. Quite nice to get a publication on the very first day of the year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Rebuffing the darkness

A day of shopping. Into town with Lorraine, and then we split up so that I could buy my lovely wife a present. As I was about this, I bumped into Janet, and Janet and I enjoyed a quick cup of coffee and arranged to see each other tomorrow. Off then for a haircut. Busy men in there today, but I didn't have to wait too long.

In the evening, back into town to meet Rosie and Innis and watch the parade for the burning of the clocks. There were lots of clocks this year, though far fewer larger ones than in years before. Lovely to see them parading through, interspersed with drumming bands of samba and bhangra varieties.

Then everyone went down to Marine Drive and looked down on the ship model into which, rather slowly, people put their clocks. Eventually this was set on fire, as a suitable rebuff to the longest night of the year and blazed happily despite the rain starting at the same time. Then a spectacular and thunderous firework display.

Now raining with a peevish persistence off to the Fountain Head where we found a table and drank beers, and generally had a laugh. Lorraine and I caught a late bus home, after a very cheery night. I like Innis very much.

Below some of the decorations along North Street, the beginning of the parade, a melee of people with clocks, striped drummers, and the back of Lorraine's hooded head looking at fireworks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The end of work

Lorraine working at home this morning. Me too, but with little accomplishment I phoned home this morning, and had a ten minute chat with Mason, who sounded better than I've heard him for a while.

Sonia here today, so kissed her Merry Christmas and made off into town to do Christmas shopping, and found things remarkably easy to find. Feeling calm and balanced. Even the shops seeming fine and not over-frenzied. There seems plenty of time this week, and simply coming home when the process grew onerous.

Bought a few pressies for folks and picked up some stuff from the post office using Lorraine's driving license. Walked home. Lorraine finally finishing work for the year. Quite a moment, and to celebrate we  polished off a bottle of wine, and watched Fleabag. A lovely little series, with its roots firmly in theatre.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mason home

Heard from Mum this evening that Barts had released Mason back into the wild, much to everyone's surprise. Mum said they had ordered some Chinese food, and Mason had eaten it as if it were a feast. Messaging the Tobster too.

Lorraine into school this morning just to do some filing, and returned home with more presents and cards. I did some bits and pieces, trying to press on with my own stuff but finding my brain a bit awol. Was offered a chunk of freelance work in January, which I have tentatively said yes to. But otherwise it seems my neurones and synapses have called it a year, even if I haven't given them permission.

Betty cooked up a top supper of stuffed chicken breasts and roasties and we had James and Kitty around. Dylan forgot to come. But we had a good laugh nevertheless, and watched We Three Kings, which we had manage to film with a rudimentary camera. Also the first five minutes of A Glass of Nothing, before the camera died. Kitty just getting ready to move up to London, although she promises to be back in Brighton lots. James meanwhile through a large pencil drawing commission, so had to stay off the boozes so he could draw in straight lines tomorrow. A cheery evening though, and so nice to see Lorraine not having to worry about having to get up tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


A house day, Lorraine and I doing things like washing the fridge, carrying things about and hoovering and washing floors, and making the front room Christmassy. Spoke to Anton and Mum this morning.

As the day wore on I felt increasingly cold and magnetised by the sofa. By bedtime Lorraine sniffing too. Watched the final episode of Humans tonight, good TV. Lorraine and I also watched the first two episodes of Fleabag. I've heard and read people raving about this, and finally got around to looking at it. It is a cult hit that first appeared on BBC 3. A blacker than black comedy, with lots of direct to camera stuff. Very dark and despairing, but brilliantly written. Very impressed. There is great TV on at the moment, but you have to know where to look.

Lorraine looked at some of the presents she received at school. My favourite, by some distance, was some quite realistic, handmade 'Reindeer droppings'.  On the flip side of the label was written '100% organic'. We think it is a chocolatey thing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A scale in G

Up and at 'em fairly early, Lorraine and Beth both in Leeds with Sam and Jade this morning. Hus called around this morning and spent the day replastering the spare bedroom wall. I like Hus and nice to chat, and he did a good job in a considerate way. We'll go for a beer in the new year.

As the day wore on I began to snuffle heralding the arrival of yet another cold. Since I had my flu jab I have had colds and bugs in abundance. In the evening went off to Brighton Station, where I went to the station bar, ordered a pint of Harvey's and waited for Lorraine's train to arrive. Very pleased to see her smiley face too.

After buying a bite to eat outside the station, we went up to Richard and Maria Grazia's house. A few chums there, including Steve and Claudius. Richard and Steve played a musical piece based on the G scale of G Ab B C D Eb F, which was rather peaceful and oriental sounding, which Richard said there is an Indian raag with this scale in. I report this completely out of my depth of course.  A fun evening with interesting people. Before I went Richard gave me a nip of whiskey called Writer's Tears. I'm not much of a whisky drinker but it's the sort of thing that a writer should have in the house I suppose.

Lorraine and I took a taxi home. When I produced my note, the driver had no change for it. So he just asked for the handful of change I had, and said Happy Christmas.

Claudius and Richard scale new heights.

Friday, December 16, 2016

A sofa day

Lorraine, having taken the last day of school off, and Beth up to Leeds at an unholy hour, leaving well before six. They were travelling up to Leeds to see Sam graduate. I slept a bit longer, but found myself in the wide awake club at seven.

Feeling tired, I had a slow day. Wrote to my old friend Tracey, now living in California, who got in touch recently. Tidied up the house, did ironing etc. Mainly, though, I had some sofa time, and through Netflix watched Annie Hall again, which I'd not seen for decades. And a SF film called Advantageous, by Jennifer Phang, which was rather thoughtful in a slow way.

Talks with Mum, and Lorraine sent this photo by Lorraine of herself with Sam looking smart on his Masters graduation day.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Tying up the laces of the year

Up early and had breakfast with Lorraine, then spent the day tying up the laces of the year, billing the Marlborough, paying Jessica our tech and so on. Not to mention a bit of Christmassy stuff and working on the Centaur a bit.

Then off to London to see Mum and Mas. I'm listening to Gogol's Dead Souls at the moment, which I started to read about thirty years ago. I shouldn't have waited so long. A really funny book. Must re-read his short stories too.

Met Mum in the cafe in Bart's hospital, and when it was time we drifted up to see Mason. He was released from Intensive Care this morning, and now is on another ward. He was much better than when I last saw him, and mentally much more like his old self, and asking how the play went and so on. He has bruises all over, with their constant difficultly in finding a vein. He had a cannula put into his groin, which was painful, and then had to be replaced. However, now he a pacemaker and a triple bypass he has the full set. His nurse, despite being a graduate of some discredited South African charm school, was doing her best to do the right thing and keep him active and nagging him to breathe more deeply.  I wouldn't want her job for all the parsnips in East Anglia. I have however been mightily impressed with Barts.

Mum and I had a quick drink after in a pub, blinking inside with epilepsy-inducing Christmas lights. Then we surged home. I managed to get a train to Preston Park and buy some fish and chips in time to meet Lorraine, who was leaving for her staff Christmas party.

I ate fish and chips, watched a documentary by Stacey Dooley, and then sat about with Betty and John who had eaten out and done some Christmas shopping. We found a free app for the TV of a real fire and played this while we talked. Lorraine back late, and in need of a drink. Then to bed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Musical interludes

Up early and working on the opera, deliveries happening during the day, including one that never knocked or rang merely stuffed the you were out slip through the door. I did some shopping, various chores and talked to Mum before she went off to see Mas. I also spoke to her this evening, and he has now had his pacemaker put in. I'm going up to see him and Mum tomorrow, as it is a chuffing non-strike day on the railways.

Beth lurking about with Laura today, on a daytime sleepover, which seems to consist of making huge scooby snacks and watching obscure things on TV. Beth pleased that Laura had also bought her a murder book. Jade has asked her to be a bridesmaid too, and Sam and Jade's wedding now has been set for August.

Off this afternoon to talk to Helen and hear the latest music she has written to my words on the Centaur project, and talked about everything from Post Modernism to the Diabolus in Musica. She also sat at the piano explaining some music theory to me about fifths, and thirds and sixths and musical inversions and so on. All very interesting.

Lorraine battling through the last days of school. She is taking Friday off to see Sam receive his Masters. So today was the penultimate day. Carol service in Bolney church tonight, and she phoned me as she locked up the dark school on her own.

After I'd eaten a fish finger sandwich, off to to the Palmeira pub in Hove, where I met Steve Cartwright and Richard Gibson. They have a jazz night on a Wednesday. Richard also talking about scales and stuff he'd been working out with Claudius in a duet they'd been working on for flute and guitar. Good to see Steve as ever too. The jazz enjoyable, particularly the pianist. Good to see cats of all ages playing together.

Grabbed a cab home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


Not a very productive day. But off to the gym. Walked through the deadness of Brighton Station, as it was another strike day. Most of the station was fenced off, which made me wonder if they were expecting trouble. Police hanging about too.

Also started using a mindfulness app on my phone, which prompts me to take a ten minute meditation break every day. Have been doing it for three days now, and I really like it.

In the evening Beth cooked and when Lorraine got home, we decorated our tree and room a bit. Beth said she wasn't feeling well and had tinselitis.

Below Brighton station, and our Christmas tree in progress.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A beano on a rainy Monday

Monday, and raining.

Off to the gym this morning, to do something about my festive plumpness. Then home before going off to London. Trains are utterly diabolical at the moment, Preston Park ominously deserted, with signs about disruption and strikes (all blamed on the union and not mentioning the world's most incompetent railway company, and the world's most incompetent secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling of course). Travel hard to impossible on any day this week apart from today and Thursday -- when I will go up to see Mum and Mas again.

Spoke to Mum and it sounds as if they are going to give Mas a pacemaker because he is not recovering and is still in intensive care. Apparently he is the person who holds their record for being in intensive care after a triple bypass.

Otherwise by judicious choices, I managed to get to Chiswick with only three trains. Walked to the City barge along Strand on the Green, passing Isis Court where I once lived, and felt pleasantly nostalgic for the slime green river in the drizzle. Settled into the pub, with a pint only to be phoned with the correct venue half an hour away. Off then to the Roebuck, walking to Gunnersbury and catching the Tube to Turnham Green. Walked past my last abode in Chiswick, where I lived in Thornton Ave.

A pleasant few hours with Matty boy and the 11 London gang, on a Monday afternoon beano. Some really nice people. Chatted a bit to Lucy, a recent graduate and writer of poems, saw an old workmate Rosie too who I'd not seen in years.

There was a secret Santa business. I got a quill pen, which was rather nice.

Dave and I caught a cab back to Chiswick Station, as we'd both come in that way, while the others all progressed on to a restaurant. A reasonable journey home, and got a cab back from Brighton, and ate some toast and a fried egg by way of supper. To bed, where Lorraine had already repaired.

Below middle of the dreary day at Preston Park. A glimpse of the old river, and a poster from Southern Fail.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Buying a Christmas tree and DIY rage

Sunday, glorying in a bit of a lie in, till the necessity for us to get up and eat kippers grew too strong. Lorraine and I drove to a Bolney garden centre (briefly playing Royal Consort as Lorraine chatted to the owner who had donated a Christmas Tree to the school). We bought a Christmas tree, a long time since I've had a real one. Reminded forcibly of why its leaves are called needles when I carried the blighter in from the car.

Otherwise moving chairs about, and thinking about Christmas a bit. A very frustrating day. L and I decided that we would sort some house stuff out. Assembling a free standing towel cupboard for the bathroom. After an hour of assembly,  the last bit was the hinge lid. The lid was cut too big to fit, and one of the hinges was missing a vital part. We have a dodgy connection from the TV arial outside to our TV. It has worked for ages, and the coax became intermittent. Took it all apart and reassembled it. Went to the hardware store and bought a new bit and reassembled it again. Still didn't work. A bit of DIY raging. I hate DIY. I want staff. If only I was a rich man.

Still, a very pleasant night in with Lorraine, the first in ages. Also the first in a while when I haven't had a drink. A much needed dry day.

Calliope sitting neatly.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The man with the hatstand

Up blearily early thanks to the cats. Unaccountably worried that I had offended people with the play. But realised that I was simply being paranoid, and experiencing the post show weirdness.

Quick catch up with Mum.  Then made breakfast for myself and Lorraine, then we had to get up to drive to the Marly to collect the props. Some scuffing about there, before I walked uphill across town carrying the hatstand and two chairs, trying not to lance shoppers in the North Laine. Not something I'd recommend with a hangover. Dropped them back to the Duke of Wellington with thanks and sauntered gingerly home.

Devoted much of the rest of the day to doing as little as possible. Lorraine off having her hair cut, and then doing a spot of Christmas Shopping.

In the evening off in steady rain to meet Anton and Mari for dinner in the Sussex Yeoman. Braved one of their nice burgers. Lorraine and I really enjoyed meeting Mari again, and having a relaxing evening. She has managed to expose Anton to dogs, or is it the other way round, and he has not been eaten by them. Remarkable.

Very ready for bed by the time we went home.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Last night

Less nervy today, although naturally nerves started at around 5pm. A taxi with James and Lorraine to The Marlborough, which was packed and had people conducting some kind of a Christmas Gift auction downstairs. More people tonight, and the room felt very full.  Catherine and Tanya and Steve Cartwright, Rosie and Innis were all there. A big day for Beth as Gary was there with Sophie, having been unable to see her during the Festival.  Emily and Eliza, two of her university besties came too. John came tonight too.

The show went excellently. Less nervy than yesterday, and always fascinating to see how different audiences react to the same play. They really tuned into the dark side for the final section of A Glass of Nothing. Beth really on point tonight. Spectacular. Very proud of her and Dylan, Kitty and James. I couldn't have asked more of them, and they consistently did better than I imagined they could.

Sad that we were done after just two nights. I have to get my thinking cap on. We've got plays that really work and entertain people, actors who are fabulous -- now I want to work out how to take it to a higher level. Edinburgh next year is the next step.

A rapid tidy up then down to the bar. Had a nice time hanging out with the cast and friends and drinking a fair few beers, chatting to John's mum Krys, and his uncle Martin, to Steve and his daughter and her boyfriend, who are plotting going travelling. Also to Gary and Sophie, who were very nice about my writing. Hanging out with lovely Rosie and Innis and generally chatting with everyone in a rather pleased with myself kind of way.

Home in the cab with Lorraine, Beth and James who was sensibly staying over, to more late night toast, and a few midnight drinks.

Here is the cast of We Three Kings, snapped a bit before kickoff,  L-R James, Kitty, Beth and Dylan.  In A Glass of Nothing, Beth transforms into the world's most beautiful woman after drinking a glass of nothing. She goes into the audience and takes a selfie. She took it on Eliza's phone, and you can see Eliza with her thumb up in the background, sitting next to Emily. It's a fab photo.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

First Night

A bit of a limbo during the day. I slept this afternoon for an hour, and otherwise pottered about not doing too much of anything, other than wasting time humble bragging on Facebook, in an attempt to get more people through the door tonight.

Lovely Lorraine arrived home early and she, James and I cabbed down to The Marly for six. Dylan, Beth and Kitty already there. Lurked in the green room a bit, and then as soon as we could get into the theatre, boshed in and set up rapidly. Bloody great white flats left in the room, and we had to dissemble them with the help of Marly folks before the seats could be done. A bit of nervous hanging around beforehand. Went to sit in the bar, nursing a half-pint. I met Ptolemy who Beth has taught, and had brought a posse of his drama A level class with him, having seen A Glass of Nothing earlier in the year. He congratulated me on the writing, and Beth says he can recite bits of the play. A very promising 16 year old I think, who clearly has marvellous taste.  Then Anton and Mari arrived to see the show. Lovely to see Mari again, and we hung about a bit before we kicked off.

A bit of a delay in starting, with Beth waiting in the tiny backstage area. Then finally we got going. Lots of younger people in the audience, and as soon as We Three Kings got going they were laughing and engaged the whole way through. Beth held it all together as the Mary figure, Marybeth, and the three kings did brilliantly. I wrote Melchior for Dylan and he just shone in it. That boy is like sunshine on stage. Kitty did the cross dressing Drag King Caspar very well, and the fact that Beth is romantically drawn to Caspar went very well indeed. James was superb as Balthazara. I thought he might be put off by the laughter, but he kept it going really well, swirling melodramatically about the place. A Glass of Nothing ran smoothly Beth's transformation into the world's most beautiful woman brilliantly acted. Kitty and Beth confident enough to ad lib around a falling over chair. Dylan word perfect and brilliant. Kitty brilliant too, always finding ways to add more,  my tiny but menacing part as the prompter even got a laugh. But Beth, who is onstage for all but a few minutes in A Glass of Nothing was a real powerhouse driving both through, and acting fabulously. She was very nervous tonight, but carried it off like a star and I felt really proud of her.

Immensely pleased to see that We Three Kings worked so well in front of a live audience. On my favourite Kermode and Mayo podcast they talk about films passing the six laugh test, i.e. if during the whole film there are six laughs. We'd done that inside the first three minutes of We Three Kings.

What was fascinating was that after the applause at the end of the evening, the audience simply didn't want to leave, but hang about talking. I had to eventually drag the actors out from backstage otherwise we wouldn't have got out. Anton and Marie who were sitting next to Lorraine and I said they really enjoyed it. Ptolemy, who was sitting behind me, said he liked We Three Kings too.

Felt really proud of everyone, and -- a rare moment this -- proud of myself too. A few cheeky and highly relieved beers downstairs in the bar of the Marly with Lorraine and Beth, James, Kitty and her friend Nick,  Anton and Mari. Then cabbed home with Lorraine and Beth and James. Ate toast. James drove home, and Lorraine went to bed. And over the last bits of toast Beth said, We did it didn't we? And we bloody had too. Went to bed, crawling in beside a fast asleep Lorraine. And fell asleep almost at once, looking forward to tomorrow.

So preoccupied, I didn't take a single snap. D'oh! 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tech rehearsal

Bit of a free floating day today. To the gym this morning to dispel tension, which worked but made me sleepy in the afternoon. And spoke to Mum, who said Mas was feeling a bit more himself, and they are talking about moving him from intensive care again soon.

Otherwise a bit of tinkering with things to do with the play. Beth in bed most of the day. When James came we set off for the Marly in a cab. Nice Pakistani cab driver who I ended up discussing Pakistani politics with. He is optimistic about the future, which is good to hear.

Did the tech rehearsal tonight, suddenly lots more real once the stage lights and sounds were sorted. A solid tech, Jessica, who new her stuff, which helped. Being on a lit stage really brought out the energy in Dylan particularly. He is such a natural. Beth conserving her voice.

Lorraine came tonight too, and her presence was really welcome. Touching how much strength Beth derives from her being there. Lorraine thought We Three Kings was good too, and seeing as she is the first person to see it, is a relief.  Lorraine and I drove home with James, who was parked outside our house. Beth went off to see John.  Lorraine and I had a glass of wine at home before bed and talked, not having the opportunity to speak much in the last few days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Long day at the thesbian coal face

Up early and doing few bits in a somewhat unfocused fashion. Then the afternoon spent in our last rehearsal in the Duke of Welly, before walking across town carrying a hatstand, (kindly lent us by the folks in the Duke of Wellington) down to the Marlborough.

A supper of sorts in Starbucks, because it was near and we needed food, then a first dress rehearsal in the Marlborough. Spoke briefly to David and Tariq who were both there. First time I'd been in the theatre there for some time. The stage has been enlarged, and the old sticky carpet taken up and it's come up trumps.

A good rehearsal, and we finished up at 9:45, and had a quick drink downstairs in the Marlborough's bar with Beth and James, having a wee in the urinal of the gender-free toilet. The Marlborough is mainly a lesbian pub serving vegan food, and has a good atmosphere, but I can't help feeling a bit of an interloper there sometimes, but I must remember this is the third time I have written stuff which has brought punters into the theatre, and drinkers into the bar. A taxi home, after a long day.

A couple of snaps, Dylan, James and Kitty: our Three Kings, and Beth being transfixed by a duck bill.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Spooning the mauve

An abominable night's sleep. After lying completely awake for a couple of hours with a merry-go-round of thoughts dipping up and down I simply got up and did some work, with Calliope which was helpful. As a consequence I felt pretty shattered this morning, and instead of travelling to London which had been my plan A, contented myself with phoning Mum a couple of times. Mas about the same as yesterday, Mum still bearing up.

Did props and sound effect organising things with Beth, and ran some of her lines, this afternoon after snoozing for a bit.  In the evening before Lorraine came home, Beth (with me kitchen portering) made a strange mauve soup from yesterdays leftover vegetables and a bit of chicken. It tasted really nice, but mauve though.

Beth printing off duplex checklists for the props and gathering everything together. We will be dropping it all off at The Marlborough tomorrow, in a marathon rehearsal day at the Duke of Welly, then a dress rehearsal in the Marly in the evening.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Rehearsing on a Sunday afternoon

Lorraine and I had a late breakfast, with Beth and James arriving in time for toast. Phoned Mum who said Mason had been taken back into Intensive care, which was somewhat concerning. When I called her in the evening, however, she said that he was noticeably better than he had been.

A cab into town, and Lorraine and I did a smidge of shopping, before I joined the others at The Duke of Welly, where I had to collect my computer and simply come home again, to transfer the show playlists onto the laptop, and then return.

Had good day's rehearsing, and it was generally quite fun, if a little gruelling. Kitty had been filming all night, so was a bit shattered, but did well nevertheless. Everyone else firing well. We Three Kings feeling much better now. Ended after six and had a quick drink under an electric bar fire in the beer garden, watching the James and Beth smoke. Nice chat with the owner, and I thanked him again for his kindness in letting us use the rehearsal room. Turned out he was former stage manager, so understands the needs of thespians.

Then home, and Lorraine was with Dawn in the kitchen. A fun evening, with a large roast dinner, featuring beetroot in a white sauce. We were all pleased to see Dawn and catch up with her news.

To bed late, after watching Chelsea's lesser rivals fail on Match of the Day.

Below James, Dylan, Kitty and Beth eating cookies after rehearsing for seven hours.

Saturday, December 03, 2016


A peaceful morning. I got up and bought some bread and bacon, and Lorraine and I had bacon sarnies in bed, which was decadent. Lorraine had to go off to her school this afternoon, as it was the school Christmas fair and she had to be sociable and mingle with folks. I spoke to Mum, then received a poetry rejection for a MS I'd been rather hopeful about, and then went to the gym for the first time in ages. It helped and I wasn't too tired afterwards.  I went into my ideologically unsound Starbucks for a coffee and a vile blueberry muffin, and thought about doing some work, but found I wasn't in the mood for poems, or doing much.

Reading a book of Ancient Egyptian writing. Although I was taken to the British Museum at an early age and Ancient Egypt has always been no my radar, I never feel I know too much about it. The fact that the first great dynasty started just shy of 3,000 years before Christ in a civilisation that continued till well after Christ's birth really is remarkable. I don't think I'd ever really clocked this before.

Walked home and cooked some sausages and made the Lorraine comfort food of mash, with fried onions, peas, carrots and gravy in time for Lorraine when she came home brandishing a bottle of Bolney champagne and a Christmas cake, she'd bought at the fair. This sausagey fare went down very well. We had a happy night indoors watching Expanse, our SF series, and then Chelsea beating Manchester City on Match of the Day to pull a little clear at the top of the table.

Spoke to Mum again, and Mason now moved out of the ward we saw him in yesterday, Toby texting too this evening.

Friday, December 02, 2016

An Announcement and visiting Mas

Best news of the day is that Sam and Jade have now officially announced their engagement. Lorraine and I are really chuffed about this, and Beth is too. Sam and Jade are coming for Christmas, so it will be a double celebration.

In other news, an overdue billing session this morning, and I finally got my invoices up to date. Then set off to Farringdon to meet Mum at Barts. Mason now out of intensive care, and in a room of his own, close to the nursing station. He is still very tired, and falling asleep mid-sentence and then waking up with a disoriented start. Mum and I sat with him for a couple of hours, and then left. Had a one fast drink in the Butchers Hook and Cleaver, posh Pie and Ale pub, and then we walked to Farringdon. Mum bearing up well with the travelling and visiting, though I am urging her to take a day off.

A wearyingly slow train home, but Lorraine picked me up at a little before seven, as she had worked late, and we went home, and then walked down to a very busy Shahi. A nice meal there and a welcome bit of time together, before we walked back up the hill again to reach home. We are watching an SF series called The Expanse, which is a little bit like Blade Runner in space.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

As nice as pie

Made a layer pie today, one of my mum's old recipes, where you layer onion and pork luncheon meat in a pie, then pour in beaten eggs. You bake it, and when sliced it appears in attractive strata of pork and oniony egg. It is not a thing of great sophistication, but very comforting on a cold day with baked beans and baked potato.  Fed this to an appreciative Lorraine this evening. I like to be able to cook for her in the evening. She brings me tea and breakfast in the morning quite often. It is a beautiful thing a cup of tea in the morning.

Went off with Betty during the day to London road to a poundshop to buy bits of Christmassy stuff for the stage set of We Three Kings. Beth also prepared the music for the show. Not going to London, nor having any work, nor a rehearsal meant I had the luxury of a sleep this afternoon for an hour. Beth sorry to be missing the pie.

Nice to speak to Matty this evening, having sent him some of my Chad poems, which he received while sitting in The Bull's Head in Chiswick, one of my old haunts and in the seat that Matt and I last had a drink there together. He liked them lots, which was good. Also sent a version of a poem I am writing about Mochi New year's rice cakes to the Tobster. Of course as soon as I sent it I started reworking it. All I want to do is read and write poems at the moment.

Beth wanted a photo of my pie, which I sent to her as she travelled off to see John.