Friday, September 22, 2017

Working by the river

Typically, the day of the week I had to work in London, was the day Lorraine's chesty cold got the better of her, and she worked from bed all day, getting up to make a delicious chicken and mushroom pie for my return. Also a rather beautiful and warm day.

I set off at seven to travel to Hampton, on the Thames, to work for a day with The French Bloke, at the FB and Pat's agency. Pat is on hols in France at the moment, which is why I was needed. Keith was doing a spot of freelance there too, and it was good to see him. The FB and Pat working with John Perkins, another old pal of mine. Their new colleagues Joe and Carolyn too, both really nice. Carolyn grew up in Orkney. Their office is part of an old boat house, and so backs onto the river. A gorgeous view. Underneath them is a loquacious Kiwi artist , and at one point Joe, the FB and I walked down to the steep stairs to the little jetty. This is patrolled by all kinds of water fowl, swans, geese, ducks, cormorants and more. There were a pair of swans with a couple of large cygnets, and the Kiwi artist emerged and they were all talking about the politics of the birds for some time. The male swan, known as George, very dominant in this stretch of the river. At the end of the jetty on a mast is a plastic owl, which is a favourite perching place of the cormorant.

Keith the FB and I sauntered off in the sunshine to a little bakery at lunch. Best day of the week weather wise. Hampton one of those wealthy and rather lovely places on the river west of London.

Home after, which took over two hours, but listening to Joseph Anton on my headphones, and stopping to buy some chips, to add to the masterpiece of a pie that Lorraine had made. I was really pleased she had stayed at home.

Below out of the agency window, and below the French Bloke picking on his Fender Strat and contemplating his view.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Working, walking, reading

A really good five or six hours of working more fluently than I had done for some days this morning, and I made some good progress. Then I took myself for another walk, through the woods by the golf course at Hollingbury, determined to get my ten thousand paces done, though still feeling underpowered, sore throated and so on. Lorraine has this cold badly, but is still struggling into work.

I was listening to the weighty audiobook of Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie as I trudged. I am over half way now. Fascinating story of Rushdie's life under the fatwah, but I feel his account is screaming out for a hard edit. The death sentence hanging over Rushdie for writing a book was utterly unacceptable, but Rushdie himself is hard to like, and the man who emerges from his account is complex, highly talented, wronged, with lashings of pomposity and vanity, but ultimately he is also an heroic figure.

Spoke to Mum this afternoon, and also was asked to go up to London to do some work tomorrow with Keith and the French Bloke.

Then Lorraine and I decided to try out the new Indian takeaway, The Red Chilli, that has opened around the corner. We had to wait for twenty minutes or so, so popped into the Park View. Both of us fancied cold beer on our sore throats.

Good food, although when we got home one of our items were missing. I popped back to get it and they were tremendously apologetic and gave us free cokes. The food was good too. What is excellent is that they are open till 11, which means that when I return home late from London, there is somewhere I can get an emergency takeaway from, as Jenny's the fish and chip place closes at 8 during the week. There is another place that does kebabs, pizzas and so on opposite, but having got a pizza from it once, I will never return.

Below a view from the start of the downs, back towards the sea, and the i360 (the iSore) just before I headed into the woods, and one of the numerous dog walkers that pack the area :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The force is AWOL

Despite creeping into bed gone midnight last night, I woke up early today and got up. The force wasn't with me, and I had earmarked this week as the week of organising and editing poems before a sending out as many as possible.  However everything I tried to polish became more tarnished, and after several hours of this I gave it up as a bad job and feeling rather frustrated, and doubting all my work.

I did some scraping of the big bedroom wall. When you are scraping a wall, the time/achievement ratio slows right down. You can get your quick wins early, buy peeling of big sheets of stuff, by this time however, I can spend ages on just a small patch of wall.  Listening to my audiobook Joseph Anton while I was doing it.

Cooked, looked after Lorraine when she got home, as she is very coldy and ill. Then a much-needed early night.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Out with Innis

Up and working on sorting out my various poetry manuscripts etc. Anton called and walked, and partly ran, over for a chat, a cup of coffee, and to bring back my World at War DVDs and borrow some Frasier DVDs. He has been doing a small amount of work each day this week, and has been enjoying it.

Did a bit more wall scraping, and then cooked for Lorraine and I before I walked down into town  to meet Innis. I found him in the street, just having got off one of the new Brighton Bikes and zoomed across from Hove. We went to the back-from-the-dead The Foundry, then the newly renovated King William IV, and then on into the Lanes. The Tuesday night pubs sparsely populated and ideal for chatting in. At one point I found myself helping a couple, the man had accidentally fallen to his knees and seemed to be struggling. Turns out he had artificial legs so I hoisted him up. Slightly surreal. Innis and I ended up in The Black Lion, having had quite a bit of beer and had a really good laugh talking about a vast array of subjects.

Fond farewells with Innis, then I walked back home, arriving after midnight.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Lucky Monday

Monday and looking forward to getting on with my work, and doing some more decorating. I spoke to Keith, as I am covering for Pat who is on hols. Also took myself off for another walk today. I noticed, however, that I had bruised two of my toes when walking with Anton, as I hadn't laced my boots properly. A schoolboy error.

Nice to have an interlude of walking about in the woods around the golf course. I you know where you are going you can have quite a bit of a walk under trees. Then I walked down to Preston Park, where I had a cup of tea, and thought about the writing I'm doing. Then back to my desk after a shower. Spoke to Mum and cooked supper. My Mondays are the luckiest Mondays in the world.

Am listening to Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, his account of living under the Fatwah.

Up high near the golf course, a view of shining streets below.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A quiet Sunday

Mum home today, thank goodness, and feeling okay, much to my relief.

Otherwise, a quiet and domestic day. After a slowish start. Lorraine and I set about scraping the big bedroom. Lovely to get the bobbly biscuit coloured walls off. Underneath the plaster is a bit cracked and dodgy, and we may have to repaper. In the afternoon Lorraine worked on school things, and I did bits of my own work and then cooked spaghetti for Sunday dinner.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Purposeful things

I got up, feeling achey after yesterday's walk, additionally I felt coldy and sinus again. Sauntered down the road to get some bread, then came home and made Lorraine and I bacon and egg sandwiches, then simply returned to bed, where I stayed with my lovely wife reading the Guardian and chatting.

Later I spoke to Mum in hospital twice. She had had a comfortable night, and sounded quite cheery. They kept her in overnight tonight too, but fed her supper, and wanted to monitor her. She was very happy to eat. Also let the Tobster know what was going on with Mum and had chats with him.

When Lorraine and I did manage to get up we did purposeful things around the house. She had bought a steam cleaner, and we used it on the gold sofa. The grimiest section of which looks much improved now. Then we prepped the big bedroom, where Beth had been, and tore a few inaugural strips of wallpaper.

Then off to Hove, picked up Beth from work and dropped her off home with a chair we were giving her. Then after looking around at their flat now they have moved in. Lorraine and I drove off to homebase, picked up paint and other bits and pieces.

Later we hopped on a bus back to Hove and met Beth and John at Hove Place. John not particularly well, with the familiar sounding wussiness I'd had this week. We sat outside briefly, till the rain started and Beth had accidentally knocked her beer over my trousers. Luckily it went on my knee rather than my crotch. Interesting philosophical problem, would you have to go home if your trousers were drenched at the crotch? Beth said you'd just have to front it out. From there we went to Fatto a Mano in Hove for pizza. Rain started coming down in stair rods while we were there, so we flitted back to Hove Place. Once a few beers had been drunk and the rain stopped, Lorraine and I cabbed home. Everyone a bit tired tonight.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Getting outside

Up early and working on some words for Helen for the opera. Then I donned my walking gear and walked down to Brighton Station to meet Anton. It was a cool but sunny day, perfect for walking.  Lots of police about at Brighton Station, as some idiot had tried to set off a improvised bomb on a train at Parsons Green in west London.

Anton saying he felt in better shape than ever, and bounded off like a young gazelle at Balcombe.  We did a circular route, through the lovely lanes then across country fields and through a few farms to the Ardingly reservoir.  Anton shared his lunch with me there, as I mysteriously hadn't brought any food. We walked around it and then back up into Balcombe.

A lovely walk, and a perfect day for walking, although we had to skirt the edge of a field full of noisy cattle. Anton let me go ahead as a decoy, then sprinted past me with some alacrity to safety. Ardingly reservoir quite full, and with signs about poisonous blue green algae in the water.

I was a bit tired at the end, but luckily we ended up at the Half Moon Inn where we had a cheeky pint before wending our way back down to the station. The Half Moon used to be a bit grim, but it is now a community owned pub, and suddenly is much better. In Brighton, we sauntered up to the Battle of Trafalgar for some more beers. Nice to be in the Batty again, and it was here Anton pulled his chessboard and chess pieces out of his rucksack, and we had a few games of chess. Anton came second. Then we remembered The Caxton which also served beers, so we went for an absolute bloody final there.

Just as we were finishing up I had a call from Mas on my mobile, and he told me that Mum was in hospital. After fond farewells with Anton I hurried home. Mas had told me she was in Barnet, but it turned out she was back in the Royal Free. When I spoke to them, they told me she had been discharged from A&E at four. So a couple of calls to Mas to find out if she had returned home yet, as this was a few hours later. But she had not. Repeated calls to the Royal Free and eventually I found that she had been discharged from A&E to a different ward. Why the bastards couldn't have made this clear in the first place is a mystery. Eventually I was able to speak to her, and found her sounding quite cheery. She had severe stomach pains in the night, but was in no pain now. It seems these were adhesion pains after her last operation. She was in no pain, but was very bored.

Meanwhile, Lorraine cooked for me, and then Dawn came around and they went to the pub. After I'd spoken to Mum finally went off to the Preston Park Tavern for a final beer or two.  A cheery hour or so with Lorraine and Dawn, before Dawn headed home and Lorraine and I sloped home to sleep like logs.

Below an ominous sign. Ardingly Reservoir, and the obligatory under the viaduct shot.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A musical and philosophical interlude

Felt much brighter today. A really good few hours work this morning, and then I walked to Hove to meet Helen. She had prepared a light lunch, with chips, which was splendid. Good to catch up on where we were in life generally, and then move onto talking about the Opera. Picking up the threads and listening to the new music Helen had made. Even on Sibelius software, the music is sounding lush and polished. What I like about working with Helen is that not only do I learn lots about music, but our conversation involve a wider philosophical context, and she is someone who gets genuinely excited by philosophy.

After working with Helen for a few hours, I walked home again so that for the first day this week I did my 10k paces.

Home and watch some episodes of PhoneShop, a Channel 4 comedy. I find this show hilarious, and oddly heartwarming, before cooking a midweek roast chicken, as Lorraine was home late.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Stern triage

Little to report. Feeling a wussy and sore throaty, but otherwise in good spirits, still luxuriating in being able to work on my own stuff, although the spectre of having to stoke up the Kenny coffers is beginning to loom. I am organising my poems, of which there are an inordinate amount, and trying to see the wood for the trees. I have dozens of incomplete poems. Some of them are incomplete because they are poor, others are incomplete but with promise. I am conducting a kind of stern triage on each one. 

Feeling a bit monastically disciplined today. Betty phoned for a chat, and said that she had recovered from her trip to Ely, where the call time was four stupid in the morning. Now happy to be home in the new flat. Otherwise, I looked forward to Lorraine coming home, and cooked for us.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Stuff that happens when you've got a man cold

Fell up the stairs, and poured tea on myself first thing. I drank the rest of the tea with paracetamols (Lorraine's universal panacea) as I was feeling rather hot, unwell and achey so went through the day on first gear.

Tiresomely, I had run out of my blood pressure tablets so I had to schlepp into town. I was refused them (having no Rx) at the pharmacy, and at the surgery I was told I'd have to call back this afternoon. The receptionist asked if I wanted to take my blood pressure because I looked flushed. I said I'd had a 24 hour tape last week and it was fine, just wanted to keep it that way. Then later, I just hurried for the bus at Beaky Top,  as I waited to board I happened to rub my chest. A man looked at me in a concerned way if I was all right. I was fine, and it was nice of him, but vaguely unsettling for me.

On the bus, the driver was wearing a blonde wig and short skirt, possibly in transition from male to female. I didn't think anything of this in particular. I sat upstairs at the front next to a small but manspreading teenager. When we reached London Road the blonde bus driver poked her head up and shouted, who's been swearing? in the kind of baritone that made me think instantly of pantomimes. The top deck hushed. There were school kids on it. She looked fiercely in my direction, and I found myself saying that I hadn't heard any swearing. There was a slightly charged moment, then the blonde disappeared downstairs again, and a wave of lively school kid cursing commenced. I can't think why I had to get involved.

Otherwise I managed to do a fair amount of writing, the luxury of poetry today, but gave into tiredness later on, and went to bed at 9:30. Lorraine read us a story about someone having to say good bye to their husband as he set off for war. Making Lorraine read the story is the solution to Lorraine falling asleep when I read her a story. Then we slept, until a violent gale woke us up at two o'clock by rattling the tiles overhead.

Found myself thinking lots about homeless people today. Brighton has one of the highest densities of homeless people in Britain, about 60% of them have no local ties, but arrive here because it's a good city. I had a change of heart recently and have been stopping to at least say hello. I realise I was trying to make them invisible in my mind, and I don't think this is right at all. I have done a small amount of work on homelessness in the past. But I'm wondering if there is something more creative about a poor people that you sometimes literally have to step over as you go about the streets. The social injustice rife in this, the world's fifth richest country, beggars belief sometimes.

Found this on Facebook the other day, and it is a good reminder.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Dancing in the sunlight

Monday, and up early with Lorraine, who made off to work. I spent a morning completing, then sending off the short story called The Roles I had been working on (it was really a sewing together rather than writing something from scratch) to a journal.

Tidied up the house and hoovered in Beth's room, now empty of her belongings and around the house. Eerily quiet today with only the cats for company.

At one point in the afternoon I sought the source of a strange new ticking in my study. It was only after I had examined the boiler and pressed my ear against the computer,  that I noticed the solar-powered Shaun the Sheep, a present from Maureen and Pat, was dancing.

Cooked for Lorraine, and had a quiet night in with her. Beth and John settling in well, although Beth has to travel up to Ely to start at some ungodly hour first thing in the morning on a shoot.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The big Beth move and a cheeky party crash

So Beth's big moving day. John had been playing a gig last night, and didn't get home to his flat till 3am. Lorraine and Beth sorting things out early in Beth's room, and I made bacon sandwiches. Then John arrived, followed shortly by Ed the bassist in John's band who had the van they used last night.

A good deal of carrying and loading of the van, including the large sofa. This packed into the van, and Lorraine and I drove over separately. Their flat is a lovely basement flat in Hove actually, but with plenty of light and air and not damp. We unloaded all the stuff, but were unable to get the sofa in, as it was getting wedged in the doorway, which is underneath the stairs leading to the rest of the house. Dispirited, Beth, John and Ed went back to our house for the next van load.

We then wondered if we could take the sofa apart. I called Janet to see if she had any tools, as she lives just down the road. She did and Hus was there too, so he lent me some of his tools and Lorraine and I were able to open up the bottom of the sofa, take off one of the arms, and then squeeze it in. We rapidly rebuilt it indoors, and then Lorraine and I, feeling very pleased with ourselves, were sitting sitting happily on it when Beth and John returned. Lorraine also got started on curtain hanging and so on with Beth.

I sauntered down to Janet's house to return the tools and as Janet, Ken, Bryn and Hus and his daughters Reem and May were celebrating Reem's birthday, I was offered wine and a piece of cake, and spent a cheerful half an hour or so chatting and enjoying myself before returning to the flat. Soon John returned with the stuff from his flat, with his pal Matt and Ed there too.

Eventually Lorraine and I made off home, rather tired after a day of hefting things. Felt strange to be hugging Beth and John and leaving them to their new flat together. They were excited and pleased, which was great to see.

Below too much hefting and labouring to take photos. The obvious shot would have been of John and Beth, but so it goes. However a cheeky and blurry selfie of Lorraine and I being pleased with ourselves sitting on the hastily assembled sofa, and Hus' daughter Reem looking at her cake before blowing it out, with Bryn sat next to her.


Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hoveward bound

A relaxed morning, spending some quality time with Lorraine. Then to Hove this afternoon. Lorraine and I dropped some things off at Beth and John's new flat and Lorraine went off to Dunelm Hill to source curtains and I walked the couple of hundred yards down to have a cup of tea with Ken and Janet. You can see the sea from the street outside Beth's flat, and Janet and Ken are about halfway to the sea along the same road. 

Had a nice long and wide-ranging chat with Janet and Ken before sauntering back to the flat where Lorraine and Beth had just arrived. I hoovered the place, which had been left in very good condition, and Beth and Lorraine cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom, which had also been left in good nick. A few last minute spiders to be hoovered up before we set off home again.

As it was late, we simply went to the Preston Park Tavern and had a few beers and some food there, a cheery night, and the beers very welcome.

Below some sunset snaps this evening, a pink cloud from opposite our house looking at the cornershop on Preston Drove, and as we crossed Preston Drove looking into the sunset.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Three birds, one stone

So, a ghastly night's sleep. I took the monitor off after 2am (they said I could) and I didn't sleep till about 4 so felt a bit blurry this morning.

Got out of bed early and began work on the story I started yesterday. I have assembled it from previous material, and it is working a treat. I have not settled on a name for it yet.

After an hour or so of this I walked down to the doctor's office with the blood pressure gubbins, and for an appointment. The doctor was able to give me the scores on the doors, which he said were reassuring. In fact my blood pressure was okay. All I have to do now is take care of myself, shun situations that freak me out, and I may not explode like an overfed leech at any moment after all. This is a bit of a win.

Off then to Brighton station and up to Paddington where I met Mum. The first of my three birds. We had arranged to meet in the station entrance. Of which there are about 17. Luckily mum had her phone and we discovered we were at opposite corners of the station. We met up and walked along by the canals and offices and found ourselves at the Dickens Tavern, where I had been a couple of weeks ago with Pat and Maureen. Had a long chat and a couple of drinks and some fish and chips. For much of the time we were the only people in the vast pub which was a bit strange, but quite nice too.

Then we walked into Paddington and we met Pat and Maureen, (birds two and three) returning from their holiday in Dawlish. Fond farewells to Mum, and then I jumped into a cab with Pat and Maureen and headed off to St. Pancras where we had cups of tea. They gave me a solar powered dancing Shaun the Sheep for my study, and some Dawlish toffees to take home. Pat was sporting a wedding ring, that Maureen had bought him on holiday. I saw them onto the Ashford train and made off to Brighton.

A lengthy journey home in faux first class. When I got back I ordered curries for Lorraine, John and Beth who were coming home from various places. John and Beth are to pick up the key to their flat tomorrow morning, which is exciting. They were picking about in the dungeon this evening preparing to take bits with them at the weekend.

An early night for all.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

No pressure

A curiously excellent day. I hadn’t been looking forward to it at all, as my first job was to walk down to the doctor’s office and be wired up to my 24-hour blood pressure test. I have appalling white coat syndrome when it comes to having my blood pressure taken, so I always get an alarmingly high reading. Having half hourly blood pressure checks is not a perfect recipe for a happy day.

Much to my own surprise I did not get hysterical all once. Every time the automatic sleeve inflated, I just said to myself, imagine how pleased you’ll feel when this comes back as normal tomorrow.  

On the way to the surgery and on the way back I was beset by several good creative ideas about how I can make the most of projects I have been working on. Once home I simply spent the day executing one of them, a short story assembled from previous material, that I think works far better than I had hoped. I also had the idea of how I would start the sequel to The Second Kind of Darkness (now in an agent’s inbox) and decided that my next dramatic piece would actually be a reworking of my first ever performed play, The Man Who Could See Through Walls. Also thought about poems and had emails from Sarah Barnsley, Robin, Catherine Pope, and Helen about the opera. Chatting with Beth who popped in briefly, to gather clothes for a fitting for an extras part next week. They have been told they can move into their new flat at the weekend, which is really exciting for them. I foresee a good deal of carrying things this weekend.

The day's only discordant note was a strange encounter with a burly south African door-to-door fish seller, who when I asked where his fish were sourced from, he replied ‘the sea’. He was trying to pressurise me into buying things. Obviously I bought. I asked him for a card, and he gave me one with a non-existent website on it. He insisted on calling again next week, and tried to shake my hand as if we had made an agreement. I did not.

I also chatted with Mum, and arranged to meet with her briefly in London tomorrow, and mowed our tiny lawn. Lorraine home after her first day with children at school, rather tired but the day had gone well, and she had gone to pilates afterwards. I sat about this evening chatting with Lorraine with my arm puffing up and down, much to the intrigue of Calliope and Brian.

Still reading Lorraine a short story each night, but in the last two nights she has fallen asleep at the same point in the same story. I read it quietly to myself as my wife snoozed.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A collapsing giant

Spent the morning refining my mind maps, designed to give me an overview of what I need to sort out. I also spent some time poring over the writers and artists yearbook for children, going through publisher by publisher. The vast majority of publishers won't take unsolicited manuscripts, which is why having an agent, a hunt I have already embarked on, is the way to go.

Spoke to Mum who was worried about Mason. He seems to have had a bad reaction to a new prescription, and was quite unwell and out of it yesterday and only a little improved today.

I went for a long walk and ended up in the park, and selected a bench looking at the wildflowers planted in the park for a bit of a meditation, as my head was full of monkey mind chatter about peanuts etc. I sat down, composed myself and it immediately began raining. I noticed another man meditating on a bench near me, but he was made of sterner stuff continuing in the rain with a peaceful look on his face.

I went into the café, and drank a cup of tea and suddenly many things felt lots better, proving what a panacea a cup of tea can be. Walked about the park afterwards and found that the larger of the Preston Twins, and the largest English Elm left in Europe collapsed on 18th August and according to the notice suffered catastrophic structural damage. Most of the tree has broken off but they are looking at ways of preserving what's left. Preston Park is the home of the National Elm Collection, the trees in Brighton mysteriously having mysteriously escaped the ravages of Dutch Elm Disease. Apparently there are over 17,000 elms in Brighton and Hove, but I passed one today which is infected.

Messages with Toby briefly, who was back to school today. I'm just very lucky to be able to get my head sorted and have time to think.

Below a few Preston Park snaps: the collapsed Preston Twin elm; in the walled garden, the wildflower field, with the derelict block behind it which will be pulled down soon. I like the trees growing on top of it, and some cheerful black-eyed susans.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Mind maps

Lorraine off to school early, I spent much of the day thinking and making airy mind maps, taking a strategic view of my activities. Plunging in without much forethought which tends to be my modus operandi. I seem to have my fingers in lots of pies. Other than itemising what I had to do, when I felt in the mood. A weakness I have is that I'm not much of a joiner-in-er, which means that I simply get things done (a positive) but the negative is that I usually operate as an outlier. I would like to be more connected.

I was able to make an appointment to see Jewel for a deep tissue massage at Sundial. I always feel so much better afterwards, though the prodding of lots of tender knots in your back can be quite painful. The last part of the massage is when Jewel asks you to flip over onto your back and she holds your head and rolls it about and stretches your neck. I find this incredibly relaxing.

Felt a bit tender afterwards, but walked home through Preston Park and then got on with my mind maps till Lorraine came home. It had been a staff-only day today, so a gentle way to start. We had missed each other. A cheery salad-eating evening, and an early night. Watched the JK Rowling detective show, which was nicely cast.

Below a snap of the part of Preston Park that has been sown with wildflowers.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

The start of the routine

Raining and muggy today, up eventually and off to drop off some guarantor documents for Beth's move, and do some shopping. Popped around to Anton's house to drop off his birthday present. He was driving off (he is now okay to drive) to The Ginger Fox with his mother as a birthday treat.

Lorraine getting on with school work this afternoon, getting back into a term-time routine. I did a few bits and pieces of my own, and we roasted a chicken, as it was roast weather, and suddenly feels like Autumn. I spoke to Mum too, and am arranging to see her next week. Otherwise I did little. I seem to be rather adept at this at the moment.

Beth home this evening, after a lively time in Eastbourne with Sarah and other chums, and then Lorraine and Beth did packing together in Beth's room, and I watched a TV documentary about an American brothel by Louis Theroux.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

A candle for Anton

A slow morning. I have discovered an enormous capacity for doing nothing. I have no thoughts and no ambitions at the moment, and I am liking it. Next week, will be the start of doing things again, as Lorraine is going back at school and I must pick up the threads. Loved being with Lorraine so much.

It was Anton's birthday today. (And Bob's.) Lorraine and I walked down to The Joker, to meet Anton and Anne, and we sat in the railway carriage section. A bit later Anna and Klaudia and Oskar arrived, having been in France at Anna's parent's house. The kids swarming on Anton, clearly delighted to see him. They were bearing presents too including a book of second world war military campaign maps, for Anton is cheered by reading about icy slaughter on the Eastern Front.

Everyone on woof woofs apart from Anne. I am always pleased to see my Godbairns, Oskar starts his senior school next week, he's quite positive about it. Nice to see Anna too, and hear how her parents were.

Then all back to Anton's house to eat cake. It had a spectacular candle, like a cross between a bunsen burner and a firework. The cake was very chocolatey indeed.

Lorraine and I sloped home mid evening, leaving Anton and his mum to discuss politics with some energy.

Below Klaudia Anton and Oskar; Anne, Lorraine and Anna; Anton's enormous candle.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Friday's for friends

Feeling free and happy this first of the month. Lorraine had to get up early and go off to school for a morning meeting, and the gorgeous thing brought me a cup of tea before she went. Thus refreshed, I  sauntered out of bed to the news that one of my poems 1,000 miles from sea was in London Grip. It's one of the Chad ones, but not one that describes the conditions too much.

Then I walked into town and met Alex Pearson at the Marwood, after failing to do so yesterday. Lorraine and I met Alex after the concert Eleni and Glen's last Brighton concert. Alex has lived in China for decades, and is a bracingly entrepreneurial person with an MBE, currently teaching business at the university, but busy hatching other plans. We talked for hours and ended up having a bite to eat at the cafe too. Definitely someone I'd like to keep in touch with.

Home and Lorraine back. After a bit, we drove off to collect Innis and Rosie and zoom over to  Dawn's house in Steyning. Anton was already there having walked along the downs from Devil's Dyke. He'd arrived early so went to a pub, where he found himself sitting near Ellie, Dawn's daughter, just back from far eastern travels. When Dawn popped into see Ellie, she was also able to scoop Anton up.

Anton is, perplexingly, looking healthier than everyone else. We all had a cheery evening sat around a fire pit on the village field just behind Dawn's house, the sun setting in lilacs behind the downs, and barbecuing bits of chicken, and arguing about the best way of doing so. I personally made a point of gorging on Dawn's lovely aubergine and parmesan dish, followed by gorging on Lorraine's summer pudding. Fond farewells to Dawn, and Lorraine drove the rest of us home.

Below Anton; Innis; Rosie, Lorraine and Dawn.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

A gentle start

So another good sleep, though punctuated with nightmares again. I seem to be going through a season of them, as the brain does its nightly archiving.

Lorraine working from home today, and I was too, courtesy of my lovely French clients, doing a smidgeon of work on antimicrobial resistance. I was also going into town to meet Alex, a very interesting person I met through Glen 'Fingers' Capra. However instead of arriving at 11:30 I set off at 11:30 and so was half an hour late, just missing her. I hate this sort of thing as it pains me to be late by even a few minutes. Luckily she accepted my apology, and we are to meet tomorrow. As I burst into the Marwood, the sound system was playing, appropriately, 'She's Gone' by Hall and Oates.

Had a coffee there anyway, and then bought some vittles and returned home, all by foot so, there and back, I had a good walk at least. Home and a bit more French work, and published a summation of the Edinburgh stuff on my other site. A gentle start back into a more purposeful rhythm.

Sian came around for dinner this evening, as she had come to Brighton in the afternoon. Good to meet her again and chat. Lorraine and I like her a very much, which is lucky as she is Jade's mum,  family. I find her a very thoughtful and interesting person. She is a vegan too, so Lorraine cooked up a rather delicious vegetable chilli.

Beth home, and spent some happy time with Lorraine planning her move, and what to buy and take and so on. It's really great to see her so excited about this next step. I'm a bit concerned about empty nest syndrome.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bishops and basement flats

Calliope insistent that I get up to feed her. Bit more of a working day today. The temperature had plummeted today and it was cloudy and rainy. Lorraine had to drive into school for a bit this morning, and had a stressful time chasing vital school stuff that hadn't been delivered. I had a much more gentle ease back into work, doing a few odds and sods.

I had a lunchtime haircut, and then mooched up to Anton's place to hang out for a bit. He is recovering excellently from his MI. Luckily he did almost no discernible damage, and is actually in very good shape. After a coffee we sauntered out into the rain, and found a pub, The Good Companions, to sit in and have an allowable small glass of wine and play a game of chess, Anton's newest craze. Turns out we are both very bad at chess but it was good fun to be fingering the bishops in a pub, which was empty enough for us not to attract attention. En passant, Anton explained en passant to me, which he had just discovered on Wikipedia. I'd never understood of this chess rule.

After this I walked home and soon was in a car with Lorraine and Beth speeding towards Hove where we looked at the flat Beth and John are going to move into shortly. A really nice basement flat on an excellent street just minutes from the sea. Feel very happy for them. Lorraine and Beth measuring windows for curtains and so on, John looking at window locks. Big rooms, which is nice.

Then home again, leaving Beth with John. Lorraine and I had a squid and salad supper, and another gloriously quiet night in.

Below Anton at the chess board, and a gorgeous sunset tonight, snapped from my study.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Surprising Pat

Another scorcher today, and the night before had been muggy and still. I had a particularly bad night's sleep again, full of nightmares. Lorraine, Beth and I set off early, walking down to Preston Park. From here we trained up to London to ambush Pat and Maureen at St Pancras. They were travelling to Dawlish in Devon and we all jumped into a taxi and went to Paddington station. The reason for the ambush was that it was Pat's 84th birthday, and also was the day before Pat and Maureen's sixtieth wedding anniversary. They had a message from the Queen they were going to open on the 31st in Dawlish.

We found our way to The Dickens Tavern, known as London's longest pub. It was fairly empty because we got in before twelve, and had coffee and soda and lime, Maureen and Pat had a small drink. The Spanish (I think) barmaid, who only had us to look after was very kind, and we had a meal there too, and the barmaid and her manager came out with a piece of cake with a candle in it. A cheery thing to do, and then we found their westbound train, and Beth, Lorraine and I waved them off from the platform.

Then back to Brighton, Lorraine had to start doing work for the school, Beth went to John's flat, and I cooked for Lorraine and I, after chatting with Mum on FaceTime.

Then a peaceful night in on the gold sofa, (for the first time in a good while).  Ah. Lovely stuff.

Below Pat, Maureen, Beth and Lorraine.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Down by the beach

Slept deeply and I woke feeling restored, and energetic, springing downstairs to feed the cats and return to bed armed with large cups of tea. After we'd dragged ourselves out of bed, we set about tackling aromatic laundry from our cases and taking hot showers.

Weirdly for an August bank holiday, it was gloriously sunny and hot. In the afternoon Lorraine and I walked over the hill to Hove. A longer, hotter and sweatier walk than we'd anticipated. We found Beth and John basking on the beach. John, brilliant man that he is, produced two cans of cold lager. It was an absolutely glorious afternoon. Beth and John soon in the water, and having no swimmies, Lorraine and I paddled about a bit. The water was very warm at the surface.

After this we found ourselves in The Giggling Squid in Hove, strapping on a Thai nosebag. Really nice food, and a cheery evening. Then after saying farewell to John, and the rest of us took a cab home.

Below a shot into the sun with my phone; Beth carrying John in the water; Lorraine's photo of me assessing the temperature with my feet, as John and Beth cavort in the water.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Aftermath and return

I have set my face against camping ever since an unspeakable family camping holiday in Devon in 1976. Our tent was very pleasant, for a tent. After we lurched into bed we found the airbed was slightly on a slope, and after a few hours of sliding off the airbed onto our heads Lorraine had the brainwave that it might be a better idea to have our pillows at the other end. This, plus the effects of a good deal of alcohol, a cold night and all the sliding meant I barely slept at all. We did have a strangely romantic walk to the toilets through the dew sodden grass in the early morning light with the landscape looking beautiful at six in the morning.

Despite a distinct absence of bounce (which turned out to be a widespread phenomenon among co-revellers) Lorraine and I enjoyed the day very much. Down to the barn again, where restorative buns full of bacon sausages and eggs, and mugs of tea and a good deal of talking. A lull in the middle of the day, Lorraine slept and I had a lovely chat with Jax, now working with Matt. Then we sauntered over to the FB and Max's tent where a few friends had gathered. Max gave Lorraine and I inflatable seats which deflated from time to time and forced us to sprawl on the floor to general hilarity. Lovely to be hanging out with them. Lots had begun drinking again, a thing I couldn't face at all.

Then to partake of a hog roast, lovely slices of meat in a bun with stuffing and applesauce. After this Lorraine and I spent about half an hour making fond farewells to Isy and Matt and other friends old and new. It had been such a nice time, and great to see everyone.

Lorraine sufficiently repaired to make the long drive home from Barleyford Farm all the way to Brighton, with just one stop. We set off at about half five, and made it home at quarter to eleven, still listening to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. It was a clever move driving home on Sunday night, because the next day was a bank holiday and the roads would have been murder.

Home at last, bumped into Rosie and Innis picking up their car, as they had kindly cat sit for us, and were driving home to Hove (their place is being repaired after a ghastly flood from the floor above). Lorraine and I sloped quickly to bed, oh God the joy of one's own bed is hard to convey.

Below, the view at the end of the Barnfield: hanging out with a few pals in the afternoon, Lorraine, First Matie, Ian (Matt's best man), Nicola, and Max; Max again, a man whose name I didn't learn, the bridegroom Matt, the French Bloke; the French Bloke and Jagdeep; finally one of my lovely wife Lorraine at the wheel speeding through gorgeous countryside, something we did lots of in the last few days.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Matt and Isy's Wincle wedding

So up at the De Trafford hotel and eating a Chef and Brewer breakfast downstairs before packing and getting ourselves sorted for the big wedding to be held at a farm near the village of Wincle, south of Macclesfield and in the edge of the peak district national park. All rather idyllic and a gorgeous drive there too.

As we were early as we turned off the main road, near the farm, we squinted into the Royal Oak only to see Nicola and First Matie climbing out of a car. We parked up and had a cheery reunion over coffee and then a beer, and were joined by Lucy and Sean, other pals of Matt's. Then we then drove into what was described as the middle of nowhere and kept going through some achingly beautiful countryside and arrived at Barleyford Farm. Family friends of Matt and Isy who were getting married. The French Bloke and Craig pointing the way, both fairly refreshed already, to the barn field where we parked up and found our tent in a village of tents. Quickly changed in there, and saying hello to loads of old friends.

A quick welcome drink, and met loads of old friends, and during the course of the evening made a few more. These included, obviously Matt and Isy, and First Matie, Nicola, The French Bloke and Max, Pat and Judith, Craig and Mel, Tash and Steve, Matt's Mum Gillian, Matt Hindley, also Brad who I'd been with in Chad (like a reunion of military veterans). Old agency pals Robbie (in a kilt), Bei Li, Jaz and his lovely wife Sarah, and Jas, who I'd worked with in Glamoursmith, and her hilarious husband Jagdeep and many others.

The ceremony was outdoors, and a lovely affair. Isy looking gorgeous in her dress, and Matt, manly and handsome. In a speech later Matt said that they had done everything backwards, getting married having bought a house together, had two lovely children, setting up a business and so on. Next year, Matt said, they might go on a couple of dates and see how it goes.

Isy's uncle is Nick Mason, of Pink Floyd. He had arrived by helicopter and had also brought an old car with him for a centrepiece for photographs. I found myself next to him, but instead of talking to him about how much I'd liked Floyd, or his autobiography Inside Out, I asked him about his car, due to my deep love and knowledge about cars. D'oh.

Just a very cheery day, with dancing and a hundred conversations with old friends, and a good deal of booze, and good speeches and good food and just lovely to see everyone. And so happy to see Matt and Isy's continued happiness and thankful for being able to revel in it.

Below stolen from First Matie and Matt Hindley, a shot of Matt and Isy getting wed: and a drone shot of the tent village we slept in, a green and pleasant land; then my few snaps: Nick Mason in one of his cars; Lorraine getting ready outside our tent; Matt's Mum and son, Gillian and Hal; Matt combing confetti from his hair; the scene in the barn; blurry dancing, with Lorraine foreground.

Friday, August 25, 2017

To the Edge

So up, personally feeling slightly sadder and wiser after generous amounts of wine the night before. I had a good night’s sleep, and a welcome shower and any sadness and wisdom quickly evaporated. Cheery chats with Lesley again, and Jeremy who ducked out between teleconferences. A croissant breakfast and cups of tea in the garden, which was very nice, and then back into the car again. I'd really enjoyed our short stay, and getting to know Lesley and Jeremy better.

 Then off to Alderley Edge. And our Alan Garner pilgrimage. Alan Garner is a fabulous children’s writer, whose books The Wierdstone of Brisingamen, The Moon of Gomrath, Elidor and The Owl Service, I all read as a child, as had Lorraine. The first two of his books were set around Alderley Edge, is a place that has lived in my imagination for decades. So strange to go there. We drove from Diggle through some gorgeous landscape and then down into some unlovely outskirts of Manchester. Alderly Edge itself is a village that has become an incredibly wealthy suburb of Manchester, being where the wealthiest footballers from teams from the North West such as the Manchesters United and City, as well as Liverpool. We checked into the De Trafford Hotel, a scruffy but cheap hotel, but nicely placed for our day's adventures. Before we explored we went along the High Street to an Italian run café for some basic fare. Such a strange area, men older than me with open necked shirts and thick gold chains, on the next table a pricey nanny with her footballer’s daughter charge, and in the corner a flash-looking but shadey types, which I couldn’t help thinking of as footballer’s agents talking on their phones. Rud vanNistelroy’s autographed shirt on the wall, thanking the café owners. A huge number of flash, brand new cars with individualised numberplates. The ooze of money is almost tangible. Lorraine and I walked up the Macclesfield Road towards Alderly edge. This is a steeply rising road flanked by vulgarian mansions. My mansion envy tempered by the slightly pathetic thought that they may have money, but they certainly don’t have taste. After twenty five minutes walk we reached the top of the hill, where everything changed. We came upon a sign that said To The Edge, and we followed it, and were soon marvelling at a gorgeous view of the Cheshire plain, and Manchester in the distance, and the peak district. The drop is fairly steep, but wooded.

Lorraine and I walked about in the woods having taken in this view. I had downloaded a partial google map which pinpointed places to see. We found our way to another viewpoint called Stormy Point, which appears in The Weirdstone. We stopped a woman walking her dog to make sure we were going in the right way. She was also a lover of the books, and the local legends of Alderley Edge, and was really nice. Football seems to be everything here, and she was soon talking about her team Manchester City, and revealed that her cute but slightly nervous dog was named after Joe Mercer. Lorraine and I then set off, arriving shortly after at Stormy Point, where we were instantly accosted by a man walking two dogs, who told us about their natures etc. Once free of the dog fancier, another splendid view. A plume of smoke from two rather wild looking walkers who had started a fire on the rocks there.

From there we walked on through the wood to find the Goldenstone, and then onto a pub called The Wizard, where we had a pint of shandy and looked at the porcelain dogs, and visited the toilets, marked Witches and Wizards, before walking on. The woman we spoke to in the wood had told us to be sure to visit the carving of a wizard's face above a stone trough, which after walking along the steep side of the hill we found, more by accident than judgement. We got there when the light was dim under the trees, and it was hard to read the inscription and see the wizard's face above it. The inscription says, 'Drink of this and take thy fill for the water falls by the Wizhard's will'. This was reputedly carved by an ancestor of Garner in the nineteenth century.

We then climbed up out of the woods, and found our way back to our original starting point, looking at the amazing view for some time, before walking down hill, past the mansions to our hotel. They had a restaurant and bar below, and we had a feed there, and a couple of pints before repairing to bed, and an early night.

Below, the sign to the Edge; a face carved in the sandstone; mushrooms; crow; view from Stormy Point, Lorraine under trees by Stormy Point; the Goldenstone; the Wizard; me; the inscription about Water and the Wizhard; and you can just make out the face of the Wizard in the photo upper right corner in profile (click the photo to make it bigger), Lorraine photographing things.