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.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Further North: Diggle

So up after Mason's carer had been. We could hear Mason and him putting the world to rights as I got up. Had toast and muesli and cups of coffee, and then fond farewells with Mum and Mas, who had an appointment with a therapist where Mason would have to explain why he hadn't been doing the exercises he was prescribed.

Lorraine and I handily at the bottom of the M1 so we could start zooming north right away.  A nice day, and it felt freeing to be zooming away from the South. We were driving off to see Lorraine's old pals Lesley and Jeremy, who have moved from Essex, to a small town called Diggle, which Lesley told us had formerly been part of the west riding of Yorkshire, but was now part of Oldham, which hadn't gone down well. The last part of our journey was over purple heathered moors and high wide views, then down steep valleys into gorgeous Yorkshire towns and villages. One of these was Holmfirth, which was exceedingly pretty and was where the TV series Last of the Summer Wine had been filmed.

Diggle was a lovely small town, again in the valley surrounded by moors. Lesley was there, and gave us a lovely warm welcome. Cups of tea, then once we'd dragged everything indoors, we set off for a walk down from the sunny side of the valley into some small woods from which emerged a canal. We took a walk along this, very flowery and picturesque, with a few disused industrial buildings alongside. We walked into Uppermill along the high street, and found ourselves in a pub called The Waggon Inn, and sat outside in the front in the sunshine, Lorraine and Lesley catching up on lots of things. Lesley had left her head teaching job, and was going to do some work at the school in Saddleworth. Lesley is a cornet player, and Jeremy a trombonist, and this part of the world is like the spiritual home of brass bands. Its so much part of the culture that the local opticians have glasses for Musicians, depending on their instruments and where the sheet music rests on their instrument when they are marching. Both Lesley and Jeremy have played in several local bands already, and Lesley did gruelling competition marching where they play their songs in several local villages where the streets are crowded with onlookers.

We took a cab back to Lesley's lovely house, and sat in the garden, which had four big carp (are they shy or are they koi) in a pond. From their house they have views of the big moors, and sheep dotted up them. On one big moortop, there are strange stones called pots and pans and a war memorial.

So another cheeky drink in Lesley's back garden, and a nice supper of greek giant beans, and a platter groaning with cheeses. Jeremy got back from London at this point, and we had a good evening chatting eating (in my case) too much cheese and lapping up plenty of wine. And so to bed.

Views from Lesley and Jeremy's back garden, the pots and pans and war memorial, the view from Jeremy's study, views of canals, and what he has on his music stand, which made me laugh. Last but not least, Lesley herself.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Northward ho! First stop Edgware

So the start of another great northward journey, packing the car full of all kinds of clothes, some for another wedding and bidding farewell to Betty. Most drives from Brighton are Northwards of course, a southward drive would get rapidly a bit too briny. Lorraine and I began listening to a bit of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner on audiobook in preparation for visiting Alderley Edge. We had both read it as children. I have read it since then too.

 First stop, Edgware. Where we spent some time with Mum and Mason. At tea time Lorraine drove us off to Bushey where we celebrated Mason’s birthday in The Horse and Chains, a pleasant gastropub with good food. We had a big mixed starter, and then our own courses. Mas had a big piece of lamb, so big that we had to take some of it home in silver paper, a lamb grenade shape. Home and we drank some bubbly and chatted till the call of bed grew strong.

Mum gave me a box file full containing stories and a play written by Alex, her father. Started reading the play in bed, a comedy about devils.

Also heard while we were up there that Beth and John have found a good flat together in Hove, and will be moving in soon. Very pleased for them, as it had been a bit of a draggy business. Beth very excited.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Busy bees

Two days of happy relaxation with Lorraine. Feeling properly relaxed at home. Interspersed with lots of gardening, and cleaning up the side of the house by the kitchen, which gave us an immense sense of achievement and progress. We drove off to the tip twice, an arachnid exodus in the car as we went. Something about dropping off bags of garden rubbish plus other bits is immensely lightening. At one point Lorraine slipped over on slimy concrete and landed heavily on her knee. Luckily she was absolutely fine.

Below, at one point we came across mating bumblebees in the front garden. I was expecting the male to fall the the floor dead and spent after they had mated, but he zoomed off happily after smoking a cigarette.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

A round of cards

Both of us a bit sluggish and tired again, but we still managed to have fun. We had invited Anton, Anne, Klaudia and Oskar round for tea. This gave us some direction to the day, and we did a bit of gardening (mowing the little lawn, clearing away fox poo, and Lorraine putting some little garden lights into it) and tidied up the place somewhat. Also Lorraine and I went to Sainsbury's. I don't know why but trundling around Sainsbury's with Lorraine always makes me feel cheerful and secure. The simple pleasures are the best.

Spoke to Mason to wish him the best for his birthday, we are zooming up to Edgware next week and will take them out to celebrate.

Good to see Anton, who is doing remarkably well, and had been for a walk around The Ardingly Reservoir and under the Ardingly Viaduct with Oskar. He is currently researching chess sets. Meanwhile Lorraine had cooked a delicious lemon chicken tagine and, after food, Lorraine initiated a game of  Uno. Anne sitting out this bit, as she, like me is not a real gamer. The rest of us sat around the gold sofa and played a few rounds of cards, and it was fun. Oskar much taken with Calliope at the moment. Klaudia laughing through her nose when I told her about a cat called Astrophe.

Once they'd gone off in a cab (Anton advised not to drive for a few more weeks) Lorraine and I slumped happily on the gold sofa. Lorraine watching the end of a Harry Potter film, then we watched more episodes of a series called... Catastrophe, on Channel Four catch up box set, which I really like. The central characters played by Rob Delaney and Sharon Hogan say such outrageous things to everyone that I find it curiously bracing, and very funny. Carrie Fisher plays in it too, in what was her last TV role.

Read Lorraine another story from Good Evening, Mrs Craven, before we went to sleep.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Shopping, wings and spooks

A bit of a lie-in this morning. Both of us with a backlog of tiredness. The more I feel I give into it, the more tired I feel. The answer is to do things. Lorraine and I went off into town doing a bit of shopping, and generally pleasantly drifting about in town. She bought a matching top and trousers, from the shop opposite Gars where we had been yesterday and were lured by a sage green top. Before that Lorraine had to return something in Primark. I have only been in there a few times, although everyone seems to go there these days, with varying degrees of irony. Then we went into C&H fabrics where Lorraine looked at fabrics, and I looked at judgmental plastic horses in the small toy section.

After our shopping done, and a cup of coffee drunk (a freebie, as Lorraine had a Costa card given to her at school), Lorraine and I went to The Joker. Here I spoke to Mum, and Lorraine and I and ate some woof woof wings and had a long chat, before we slipped into the Cinema to see The Ghost Story, which we both liked, for being curious and un-Hollywoodish. It did feature a person in a sheet as the ghost, which was brave or ridiculous or both. Some of the scenes were very slow, with a twist at the end, which I rather enjoyed once you got into the pace of the thing.

We walked up the hill afterwards, and sloped into bed. I bought a rather beautiful paperback book published by Persephone Classics (a new one on me) of stories written during the war on life on the home front by Mollie Panter-Downes, called Good Evening, Mrs Craven.

Below Judgmental plastic horses in C&H Fabrics.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A weird optimism

Sent off my novel to an agent specialising in children's books today, selected mainly on gut feel and intuition. This felt like a significant moment. Having spent much of the day sorting it out, and asking Lorraine to read through everything before I emailed it off. I will also send it to a publisher, and once this is done there is nothing more to be done for the time being. I would love to work with an agent though. Despite my attempts not to build my hopes up, I have a weird optimism about this story.

In the evening, Lorraine and I had a cheery date night in Brighton as a date and celebration of sending the story off. To The Cricketers, which is a pub she and I used to have a Friday night drink in when we were dating. Then across the road to Gars Chinese restaurant, where we shared a Chef's feast and a couple of Asahi Japanese beers to wash it down with. Generous portions, and we did some serious chopstick work.

Our fellow diners not of the most restful sort. A table of women, one of whom was literally screaming with faux excitement, and nearby a woman who I couldn't help thinking was a football wife, complaining about things in an imperious fashion. 

We had a good time there, and walked along to have a single drink in The Basketmakers, where Joe the guv'nor there told Lorraine he was getting married next year, after Lorraine showed him a photo of Sam and Jade. A bus home, after a happy evening. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Calm as a mill pond

Lorraine and I up fairly early. Lorraine off to see her pal Tanya, who also gave her lots of resources for her school. I, meanwhile, worked on my my proposal for the novel, which I intend to send out tomorrow. I am putting a great deal of effort into this.

In the afternoon, Lorraine home again, and we had a light lunch and then drove off to Bolney School, where we dropped off the boxes Tanya had given Lorraine, and looked at the building work being done on the old school. Lorraine a bit sad that some of the more quirky features were being covered behind new panelling. 

From here we went for a delightful short walk around some old mill ponds in a nearby wood. Gorgeous they were, saucered with waterlilies, and reflecting the fluffy white clouds. We sat under an oak tree, near the biggest of the ponds, which was already dropping a few acorns while watching the dragonflies. We scrumped a dozen or so sweet and juicy blackberries, which seem very early this year. A lovely little interlude.

We stopped off at Marks and Sparks on the way home, and bought some fish which Lorraine transformed into a lovely fish curry, which we scarfed while watching the last of Orange is the New Black this evening. Both of us still extremely tired and in need of much rest.

Also, spoke to Mum, this morning who had been given the clear to return home, and sounded fine and cheerful, and this evening, once home. All good.