Friday, April 21, 2017

Noticing things

Still feeling cheerful. Helped by not having to work on the train first thing. End of week-ish and a bit braindead. Bought tea from man on the The Daily Grind stand, and shunned my sweetener as more news this morning that artificial sweeteners in soft drinks increase your risk of dementia and stroke. Listened to the football podcast. Brighton a.k.a. The Seagulls, are about to be promoted to the premier league, which sets up the potential for loyalty dividing Chelsea V Brighton football matches.

A gleam of various ideas of things to write, as I walked from St Pancras to the office.  Noticing things again.

Keith and I were given quite a bit to do. After takeaway sushi lunch, there was the usual agency Friday afternoon crisis, with work that needed doing urgently at 5pm. We pulled it off, and I still managed to catch the 18:08 from St Pancras. Another drunk on the way home, in a very smart suit in his early 40s, who sat down heavily on me then, having muttered in apology, lolled about asleep, and on three occasions tried to rest his head on my shoulder. My patience wearing thin, if he had done it a fourth time I was tempted to punch his head. Luckily for both of us, some spidey sense in him prevented this.

Home to Lorraine at last, thank God. And no French work to do tonight. Finally heard from my Paris pals, and they had liked the last idea I had sent to them last night.

The flowers I sent Lorraine had arrived during the day, as it is her birthday tomorrow.  She had spent the day quietly working from home, but had also cooked us stuffed peppers which were lovely, these, abetted by a cans of lager, and a glorious encounter with the gold sofa was exactly what the doctor ordered. An exhausting week, but pivotal too.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Out of the tunnel

Everyone up with the larks this morning. Lorraine up before me, and driving John and Beth off to hospital, where John was having a small op.

I felt like I had emerged from a dark tunnel today, suddenly feeling happier than I have felt in some weeks. But the work unrelenting. On the train this morning, then a full day of Keith and I digging holes, only to be told to fill them in again, and then home to see my lovely wife, eat stir fry and then start work again till gone ten.  I have heard nothing from lovely French clients, however, so that was my last piece.

Cramped on the train going home. Beth called me, bored as John slept off his anaesthetic. Sitting next to a man of the train who was furtively tucked into several cans of beer from his case. He crushed them all into the waste bin before he left, and walked down the platform swigging mouthwash. I finished the evening with a whisky with my wifey, and then bed. Tomorrow is Friday. All is well.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A gloom

French work first thing today, as I travelled into London. Then a full day up in the smoke. Had sushi and poetry rejection for lunch. Felt beset by gloom. Bob called me to say that he was feeling gloomy, but I gloomed at him before he could gloom at me. Keith confirmed I was a bit gloomy today, which makes you feel even gloomier.

Snuck out ten minutes early to get the early train just in time to pass a clot of my new colleagues. Train delayed obviously. I worked on the train a bit, and happy to get back to Brighton, and enjoying  the walk back from the station, looking over my shoulder at the colours of the low sun.

A cheery supper, with Beth and John, who is going to hospital tomorrow for a quick op. Hearing about their recent awake break in a hotel. Then upstairs to the no rest for the wicked department. Sent off another idea to Paris. Then chatting with Lorraine, and talking in bed till late, which was a bit crazy as we both had to be up with the sparrows.

A non-gloomy shot I snapped yesterday on the way to work. Newton.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A long slog

Up at six fifteen, and off into the cool but sunny morning. Into town, and sloping into work. Several talks about work we might be doing, without too much being demanded today. My lovely French clients, however, spoke to me which meant I had to work on the train and at home. All a bit of a long slog.

Lunchtime, I spoke to Mum and Mas while sauntering in Russell Square. Mum slowly getting herself organised. I put off inflicting myself on her this week, and will pop up next week. Walked to Waterstones bookshop, but delayed buying lots of books till I can actually afford them, which will be soon I hope.

Stuff from the Edinburgh people about get in times, which luckily Beth was on top of. Also emails with Sarah Barnsley, who I like a good deal, about the Telltale Anthology.

My inner Charles Pooter was appalled that the lovely vegetarian chilli Lorraine had cooked wasn't ready for me as soon as I got home. Normal roles reversed, Lorraine was aghast. Very happy to be home, on the gold sofa with my lovely wife. Then in the no rest for the wicked department, off to do more work. Toby Facetimed later but I was in zombie mode by then and migrated to bed as soon as I could.

Below Mr and Mrs Pooter.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Decline and Fall

Slept like a baby, apart from the attentions of Calliope this morning. Fed her and Brian, made tea and sat in bed with Lorraine and I caught up with my blog. Then up as Dawn came around for coffee. I left the ladies chatting and worked on my French stuff for a couple of hours, sending some ideas off to Paris.

Spoke to Mas a couple of times. Mum now back home, which is good.

Heard from Richard, and his new collection is going to be published by Blue Ormer, which is splendid.

I needed an afternoon of indolence, feeling tired and depressive. Lorraine and I went for a walk around the block, then zombied in front of TV. We watched the Anchorman The Legend of Ron Burgundy, film, having never seen it before. Mildly amusing. Then all of the recent BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall which was very well done, funny and well paced. A brilliant adaptation I thought.

And so to bed, setting my alarm for 6:15 tomorrow. As Nigel Molesworth might say, Chiz.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Farewell to Sam and Scotland

A dreich day, rainy and grey. Met Sam in the Cafe 33, where we were told it was going to get colder next week. I had a full breakfast, which included black pudding, and Lorraine and I talking about a diet of lettuce when we get home. Sam caught the train with us to Stirling, and after sad farewells had left in search of an airbed.

In the cafe I was able to get through to Mum, who sounded bright and said she was on the mend, and hoping to go home in the next day or so and was now able to eat and drink and was on her third bag of water. She had had pancreatitis after the recent biopsy and had been unable to eat or drink and had been in a lot of pain. I felt happier having talked to her.

Sad to see him go, and as the train pulled off it seems that Bridge of Allan was a long way from home again. To Edinburgh, then the airport by tram. Uneventful time there, and the flight home slightly less obnoxious that the first one, but cramped and trapped doesn't help. I like the signs over the gates at the airport, saying Haste ye back! We will be returning in August, so their wish comes true.

Feeling very tired by the time we got home. Lovely to be on the gold sofa, eating a light stir fry and fruit. Mason called saying he hadn't been able to get in touch with Mum, however I gave him the ward number but she they had spoken when I called later.

An earlyish night, shunning Match of the Day as Chelsea had been beaten by Manchester United.

A last glimpse of the Wallace Memorial from the train.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A lovely day and a frayed nerve

A lovely bright day. Lorraine and I met Sam and did the Darn Walk, much of it alongside the River Allan rushing through the woods, and then skirting a golf course down to Dunblane. A beautiful walk. One favoured by Robert Louis Stevenson, and a cave by the river is said to have inspired Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island.

Then into Dunblane, which seemed a very pleasant quiet town. Terrible that for outsiders it still is most famous for the deadliest mass shooting in UK history where tiny children and a teacher were massacred by a crazed gunman in 1996. Seeing the little town makes you think about the trauma it endured. Everyone must have known someone who was directly affected.

We had a nice hobbits' second breakfast there (having eaten a banana first thing) and then went down to the little station to go two stops to Stirling.  Enjoyed seeing a poster for the trains with the headline, 'Your ticket to fun filled places, and excited wee faces'.

Into Stirling, also a lovely-looking place in the sun, where we went into a cafe called the Sable and Flea, for a quick coffee before venturing next door to a gentleman's tailors. Here to get the ball rolling on getting a stylish suit for Sam for his wedding. There was a room full of burly men in kilts when we arrived, and there was all the paraphernalia of traditional scottish clothing there. Kilts, and gorgeous jackets in some amazing colours, and kilt hose, and colours for the socks, and more sporrans than you could shake a stick at. Sam favouring a blue three piece suit, and having chosen the fabric, and paid a deposit, and made an appointment for Sam to be measured up, made off back to the Station (very clean and free of graffiti as all of them seem to be), to return to Bridge of Allan.

Then a bit of downtime, having done a fair amount of walking. We tried to book a nearby restaurant called the Bologna, but were unable to get a table. Lots of the food places here are run by Italians, and there seem to be a fair amount of people of Italian background here, including the owners of the cafe we eat in in the morning.

At tea time, we went to have another fish supper at the Allanwater Cafe. The haddock was perfectly cooked and delicious. Leaving the cafe en route to the magical Allanwater Brewhouse, I decided to call home to see how Mum and Mas were. I'd had a vivid dream about Mum the night before which had reminded me to call them. I said hello to Mas and asked him how he was, he said fine but said Mum had been in hospital for three days. He had been in to visit her with Robert today, and she was much better. Something had flared up after her pancreas test last week, and meant she was in lots of pain, but the was now being controlled.

Somewhat alarmed by this, let Toby know, and then went back to the hotel to use the power of Google and get the number for the ward she was in. I spoke to her nurse who said she was comfortable and okay, and was being settled in for the night. She took a message from me. Let Toby know this. Then, nerves a bit frayed, went back to the pub.

Drank deep of the 70/- beer, which was lovely, and had a good night. Musicians playing in the pub tonight, and it full and cheery. Lorraine talking to family on the same table, whose son was at Stirling doing an MA. We were there till the end, and this brilliant pub's Narnia like qualities on full force, and quite hard to drag ourselves away back into reality.

Below, shots of the river Allan, and along the Darn Walk, including the Stevenson bench and cave, part of the the sporran section in the House of Henderson tailors, inside the haven of the Allanwater Brewhouse.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Toddling around town

Breakfast in cafe 33 (which we are think of unfairly as cafe 666) again this morning, and a bit of a ditto day. Sam went off to do some work at the University, and I went back to the hotel and worked in the quiet of our room on the thorny French brief. In this tranquil atmosphere, with Lorraine playing on her iPad quietly on the bed, I soon got to grips with a couple of ideas and felt happier enough to stop working.

Lorraine and I then had another afternoon constitutional, this time at the top of the town, with rather nice views and gorgeous house-envy inspiring houses. We saw what we thought was a bullfinch attacking a parked car's wing mirrors, and then pecking at its darkened windows. Obviously spring making it feel territorial to the point of fighting itself.

It had grown quite chilly, and Lorraine looked into some charity shops, and then we had an afternoon coffee and a scone in a busy cafe restaurant called the Jam Jar. After a snooze, we met Sam and went to Bridge of Allan's one Indian restaurant, which was pokey and kitchen-smokey and quite pricey. But the food was pretty good, and we all enjoyed the food. We rolled down to the Allanwater Brewhouse again. What an amazing place. Here we played cards and supped fine beer and chatted, till it was time to go home. Sam taking some time out to read something Jade had written and comment on it, his face screen lit in the pub. Cool that they can critique each other's work.

A few not particularly well snapped photos around the town.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A day in the Bridge of Allan

Bridge of Allan then. Up and off to the local Cafe 33, where we met Sam and had a good breakfast, including black pudding. The place was empty at first, but it soon filled up. Very popular place. With lots of signs on the wall with signs such as  Service may vary according to my mood and your attitude and SORRY yesterday was the deadline for all complaints. Lorraine and I committed a faux pas by asking for more coffee when we'd already had our free refill, we were given some stonily, but without   milk.

Back to the Royal Hotel and we stayed downstairs in the almost swanky bar area, I made small progress on work for the French brief, and Lorraine did some sewing and tried in vain to change a password on a phone account. We had light bite, a bowl of soup for me, and then we went outside for a walk. A bit spitty with rain from time to time, but we walked about on the backstreets of the Bridge of Allen, unremarkable, but good to get some air. Then back to the hotel for a large snooze, and woke refreshed and met Sam outside and went to the Allanwater Cafe down the road. Rather busy, but the fish and chips and mushy peas all excellent, this down to advances in chip fryer technology.

Then Sam took us down an ugly little backstreet and we stepped into a wondrous beer Narnia, called the Allanwater Brewhouse,  an incredibly characterful place, serving eight own brew beers. I tasted three of them and they were fantastic. Very cheery night in there, playing cards with Sam in the gorgeous little bar.

Then we walked back to the hotel and had a glass of whisky as a nightcap. I had a ten year old Isle of Jura, being advised by whisky connoisseurs Lorraine and Sam who each had something different, with vastly differing smells.

And so to bed.

Below the Wallace Memorial like a ghost of the past, visible for miles, the circus at the end of the road, inside the glorious beer Narnia of The Allanwater Brewhouse, love the sign over the door as you leave.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

To Scotland

Up and packing this morning, then Lorraine and I set off by car to Gatwick, after fond farewells with Beth, Pat and Maureen. To Gatwick on time, and then by SleazyJet to Edinburgh. A hateful flight, packed in like battery hens, Lorraine was claustrophobic, and I was entertaining the usual gamut of neuroses.  Off at Edinburgh. Lorraine and I found our way out of the airport and onto the Tram which took us to Haymarket station from where caught Dunblane train, to Bridge of Allan. Dominating the landscape from the train was the beautiful Wallace Monument. I want to try to get a better look at this.

We arrived in the town on a sunny day, and it looked very pretty. We crossed a little bridge over Allan water passed the Chip Shop, and found the Royal Hotel, and went up to our room with a creaky floor, along an uppy-and-downy corridor in the part of the hotel which is just about to be refurbished. Nice enough place. Then along the main street to meet Sam in a pub restaurant called the Meadow Park Pub and Restaurant, where we ordered pints of bitter and twisted, a citrus noted bitter which was very nice. Tried to blend in by being jocular (arf).

Sam arrived from his philosophical seminar, to be much hugged. Caught up with him over a shared seafood platter and then Lorraine had sticky chicken, Sam had a pie, and I had a satisfyingly jalapenoed pizza. Walked back along the road, looking at Stirling Castle lit up across the dark valley, and the tops of the circus that has come into town. Early to bed tonight, after Lorraine had cunningly bought some big bottles of sparkling water, and emergency bananas for the morning.

A shot from the plane window of Inchkeith Island, in the Firth of Forth shortly before landing at Edinburgh, two of the rocks near it are called, I learned thanks to Google Seal Croft and Iron Craig.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Working from home

In the no rest for the wicked department, spent the day kicking against the pricks of a particularly thorny brief. My lovely French client Val had told me yesterday the brief was hard, and mon dieu she was right. Broke off to chat to Mum, or do the laundry or go for a brisk walk. But compared to last week's salt mine experience, this feels like a holiday.

Lorraine and Betty went off to London to meet Jade and Sian for an exciting pre-wedding shopping day. Pat and Maureen off by bus to see Janet and Ken. Maureen much impressed with Janet and Ken's new place, and she particularly loved the windows.

Cooked with Maureen, where I learned a lesson not to put too much milk , and hung out with Pat and Maureen watching TV till Lorraine and Beth returned with their booty, including swanky shoes for Beth and a mother of the bridegroom dress for Lorraine. Although Lorraine's fascinator went back with Sian in a box, to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world in August.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday is nice shock

Yippee for a Monday. Up fairly early, took Lorraine breakfast and tea and went into the nerve centre of my office and caught up a bit with things. In the afternoon was briefed by Val in Paris. Had an idea and got this down, but not the easiest brief. But overwhelming feeling of happiness not to be  cramped on a train. I went for a walk, which felt marvellous and freeing. Simple pleasures. Lorraine took Maureen and Pat and Beth off to an exhibition which featured some of Lorraine's pal Carolyn's work. Maureen came back with with an embroidered broach.

Sunday, April 09, 2017


A slow start to the day. Eventually we all climbed into the car and drove towards the sea. This hampered somewhat by the marathon that was going on by the seafront. Eventually, after all kinds of complications we arrived at the sea in Hove and sat on a wall and had icecreams and soaked up the sun. John arrived a little later, and splendid boy that he is, he brought us a tins of cold lager.

I'm still feeling wan and out of it, but being by the sea was nice. Touched by how supportive the crowd that spread all along the seafront were to the marathon runners. Must have been exhausting for them in this unusual heat.

Then eventually home again, having caught the sun, despite breaking out my straw hat for the first time of the year. Beth stayed with John, and we trundled home. I spoke to Mum and then we ate a nice supper. Weirdly Lorraine and I got sucked into watching the culmination of the Masters Golf final with Pat till all hours. I quite enjoyed it.

Below some beachside scenes. Tired runners, the big blueness, beach people, and a powered hang-glider flies along the beach.


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Hot and blue skied

Pesky cats seem not to understand that this is the weekend. Calliope waking me at six by sitting on me and passive-aggressively purring. Fed the beasts and returned to bed, then bought chewy brown bread and a Daily Mail and white bread for Pat and Maureen. The man in the butchers demanded to know if I was having a barbecue today, as it was so hot and blue skied. We didn't.

Instead, a day of regrouping. Lorraine coughing and not well, me worn thin and sore throaty still. Lorraine off to get her hair cut, Pat and Maureen off to meet meet Beth to eat a McDonald's and do a spot of shopping. I chose to sit outside  under the little tree looking at my poems and drinking coffee, all in preparation for a heroic afternoon sleep of two hours or more.

Then in the evening we all watched a movie about the life of Florence Foster Jenkins, which was oddly touching and enjoyable. The business of watching brave and noble Chelsea on Match of the Day, another victory and then bed. 

Friday, April 07, 2017

Free at last

Thank God for Friday. Up to the smoke one last time, feeling cramped on the train but working a bit on my collection of eight line poems, which has the working title of 'Everything nobody wanted me to say'.

A gorgeous day again. At work, a morning of faffing around talking to people, till Keith and I were given some work to do urgently which made the afternoon go quickly. I just couldn't wait to escape, feeling weirdly stressed all day, despite the fact it was my last day till after Easter.

Free at last, for a week if not being fully released back into the wild. I got to St Pancras with a few minutes to kill before my train left. Bought myself a can of cold lager at M&S, and went to the platform. Popped open the can, set it beside me and promptly knocked it onto the floor, and watched it gout out around my ankles. I managed to save about a quarter, which I drank from the dented can surrounded by a puddle. Sigh. Onto the train, and then eventually home, and dumped my bag and made off to The Preston Park Tavern, where Lorraine was with Pat and Maureen and Betty and John. Beth phoned me a touch earlier and ordered food for me and a whole cold beer which was waiting for me and undid many harms.

It was Maureen's birthday, and we had a cheery time. After we'd eaten, Beth and John went off to Hove, and the rest of us came home. Pat and Maureen went to bed early, and Lorraine and i watched a little TV, but both fell asleep at around the same time and woke up to find it was one o'clock.

A morning street view of Cartwright Gardens, and the bear in the basement which is beginning to stand for a lot.

Thursday, April 06, 2017


Poor Lorraine really struggling with a cold this morning. But went to work anyway. I tried to write on the train this morning, but the pesky new Thameslink trains are designed by people who hate commuters, and there is no space for your knees nor any tables other than in first class. However a cheery Danish singer sat next to me at Gatwick and, not knowing the rules, spoke to me. She was here for the premiere of a film, where her voice was used on the soundtrack.

Walking along Tavistock Place (where Carl once lived) and enjoying the proximity, just one door between them of houses where the whimsical Jerome K Jerome author of Three Men in a Boat, fame, and V.I. Lenin founder of the USSR lived, sadly though not at the same time.

Keith and I given work only sporadically today. Went to the pub at lunchtime where I heroically had sparkling water with a squeeze of lemon. Warm sun today, and we stood upstairs on the roof of the building drinking coffee for a bit, looking down at our shadows on the floor below.

Home without incident, and bought some chips to go with some chicken Lorraine had just griddled. One day to go, and both greatly looking forward to the end of the week.

Below Keith and my tiny shadows by the arrow, and the spiritually uplifting interior of St Pancras, and plaques.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

A bit of a slog

Porridge and toast with Mum and Mas, then I sauntered in the sun to Stanmore, thinking about the meaning of a dream I had had the night before about meeting a powerful goddess. A quick and easy journey into work. Then a bit of stressy slog this hump day with Keith. Rushing out to buy some takeaway sushi again for lunch. We were focused on getting things ready for a presentation we had to make at the end of the day. This went fine, and our stock still good at the end of it.

Home looking at my poems a bit on the train. I seem to have accumulated a collection of two dozen eight line poems, mostly very new. Up the hill from Preston Park station, still listening to Julian Cope music. Home to find a very coldly Lorraine and Beth sitting in their pyjamas on the sofa watching Masterchef. Happy to be home, and watch the tail end of it with them, and be mobbed by Calliope. Lorraine just two days away now from end of term, which is fantastic.

Early to bed again. It is the only way to survive. Rereading the sublime Diary of a Nobody at the moment, a few paragraphs just before I go to bed. I have tried reading it to Lorraine but she falls asleep instantly.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Making Mason yelp

Feeling more lively today, and decided to visit Mum and Mas tonight, without risking giving them the lurgy. Into work and finally told what to do (not an actual brief obviously) and simply got on with it, which was a relief.

Off at lunch to buy takeaway sushi, then eventually able to slip away up to see Mum and Mas. Had a turkey steaks and a good chat with Mum and Mas, plus a few glasses of wine. Talked about lots of things, including Gerald, whose funeral Mum had been to recently.

Mason's new hearing aids are brilliant. The television is on quietly, and he can eavesdrop on people when he's out and about, discovering that where he was in the street nobody was speaking English. Best of all, when I put my head into the front room to say goodnight to him after chatting with Mum, he yelped and jumped out of his skin.

To bed and slept like a baby, apart from when a police helicopter hovered over the street for ten minutes or more at one o'clock.

Monday, April 03, 2017


Feeling a bit sweaty and achey today. Lorraine coughing and sniffing somewhat. A day of paracetamols again. Back to work with little enthusiasm, but trying to do some of my writing on the train. Reading my children's novel and making tweaks but quite happy. I also had to turn down other freelance work for the week, which is always slightly twitch inspiring. Spent all day waiting to find out what they wanted us to do next. Attended a meeting where this was discussed, which naturally started at 5pm. I simply walked out of this some time after six, as I wasn't going to let muddle stop me from getting home.  Feeling sweaty and grumpy didn't help.

Home at last. Spoke to Mum and arranged to stay with her the next day. Lorraine and I creeping into bed as soon as possible, in all work and no play mode.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The first Mongol of the horde

Anton around this morning to discuss Educational matters with Lorraine, and help himself to a couple of enlivening coffees. Once he'd zoomed off the pottering began. I did some in the garden. I mowed the lawn, that was moist and long. Lorraine and I pulled a few weeds up, and trimmed back a few plants, and sat in the hot sun in the corner of the garden drinking coffee watching a snail progress at speed towards the vegetation. The the first mongol of the ravaging horde.

Then I did some business admin stuff, and Lorraine did a bit of headteacher stuff. Spoke to Mum and Mas. Had a delicious Sunday roast dinner and then headed for bed early, after a spot of ironing. The very stuff exciting blog narratives are made of.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Blue sky day

A rather glorious day today, where Lorraine and I decided to have a fun day, and drift about as the mood took us once we'd got up. We walked into town, had coffee, went shopping for a few bits and pieces. I bought a new pencil case. Last of the big spenders. Then we walked down by the seaside and along slowly to Hove. A bazillion people all sunning themselves by the sea.  The beach front a bit of a building site at the moment though, with areas being rebuilt.

Found out that one of my poems will be on the Guernsey buses this year.

Then we walked up to Hove, popped in to see Wayne, and arranged to see him later, then walked down to find Janet and Ken in their new home. I didn't know the address, but we tracked it down fairly easily, having seen a photo of it, and noticing Janet's car parked outside. They had moved in on Friday, and were still adjusting. A lovely downstairs apartment, big and roomy with loads of light today. A quick cuppa, and walked back towards Brighton stopping at the Paris House, where we met Wayne and a friend called Florent, a really interesting young French guy who loves drawing and does illustrations. We sat outside the pub, chatting to various folks and then Wayne's pal Jonathon arrived  who Lorraine and I hadn't seen for some years. He's now into magic. Florent's twin brother Baptiste arrived, who was equally charming and interesting. Beth caught a bus and joined us too, and the one drink turned into several, with Lorraine buying some charcuterie. Inside the pub a jazzy, Hot Club de Paris style ensemble were playing. A really cheerful scene.

Then a cab home, watched a bit of Match of the Day but lost interest as Chelsea had lost. To bed eventually.

Below: the hordes on Brighton Beach, and the weird, bricky amazingness of St Bartholomew's in the sun.