Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Last day of a short stint

Up and off again. Last day in my three day stint. Another day in a goldfish bowl meeting room. One of the advantages of being older is that people cannot be certain that you are a person of no importance. A couple of times people came to the room, clearly wanting to turf me out, and I just gave them a Paddington stare through the glass and they thought better of it.

Worked on the train to get everything sorted in time, and despite various IT pains at work (they asked me to bring my own laptop, but their guest Wifi blocks you from sending emails sometimes), started the day running around with a memory key.

Spent the afternoon with Fernanda, after our first thoughts had been scorned by some suit, who insisted on replacing them with idiocies, which due to his seniority within the organisation, apparently we had to run with. I reminded myself I was only there for a few more hours. Released back into the wild by Fernanda. She is a breath of fresh air, with an original mind and a beautiful design sense, and this was I think the third time we had worked together. Didn't have much time to chat about anything other than work, although she did tell me she came to work in her pyjamas and nobody noticed. From the goldfish bowl meeting room we watched the big full moon rise of the buildings, and it was beautiful.

Robin's first layout of the Telltale anthology came through today, which looked splendid. Quite pleased with one of my two poems in there. The photo I put on Instagram on Monday was reposted with my permission by the Kings Cross account. I like Instagram much more than facebook these days.

Off on the train up to Mill Hill where I walked to the Jolly Badger Harvester Mum and Mas at the harvester for dinner. Quite cold tonight, about 5C.  I drank beer and Mum and I ate the ribs of some shrew-like thing, which I'd augmented with half a sparrow.  First time out for Mas for a while, and he seemed well disposed towards a burger, natchos and fries, with a cold beer. Various chats, before it was time to head for home. I walked back to Mill Hill train station, and had a long faux first journey home. Walked up the hill under the super blue moonlight.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Industrial Luxury

Trying to work on the train, but it was too full, and pesky faux first was full too. Bah. Into work and working alone for most of the day in a different office a bit like goldfish bowl, which at one point I was forced out of. Fernanda busy most of the day, so did most of the work and drawing up solo.

A nice walk at lunchtime, and  chance to see some light. Walked along a bit of the nearby canal, and past gasometers that had been repurposed as swanky private properties. Not much to report in the afternoon other than steady concepting.

 Slow journey home. Home, and oddly desperate for a beer. Lorraine had cooked me a chicken curry which I had with the Cylons and a couple of tinnies. Sweet.

Below taken with gasometer 'industrial luxury' apartments. Each of the columns had the stamp at the bottom of them, which I rather liked.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A dancing fountain

Up with Lorraine and off to London. To St Pancras, in faux first. Heading for a tasteful modern redevelopment around the back of Kings Cross. I was early, so found the canal and on the other side of it was St Martin's. Outside were dancing fountains, which suddenly sprung up as I looked at them, catching a man cycling past. I took a snap of them, their jets undulating in waves.

I had a walk at lunchtime, and bought a sandwich and ate it sitting by a jukebox in a waiting area in St Pancras.

Then into the office, where Fernanda grabbed me from reception. A clean and attractive office building, very swanky if soulless. Spent the day in a meeting room looking at a grey wall coming up with ways of selling a kind of medical packaging. Nanda had to go off and fix lots of problems for most of the day, so I was left mostly to my own devices. Nice to see her though, in those times when we were together.

Then off home in the evening, and home to Lorraine and eating more of the turkey pie Lorraine had made brilliantly yesterday. Yum. To bed, after a nightly dose of Cylons.

Below a student walking through the dancing fountains in Granary Square.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Muddy fun

Lorraine and I off to Trading Boundaries today, and bought some really colourful cushions and a gorgeous patchwork quilt for the big bedroom. They suddenly brought the room alive. Always like it there, and ghosting about upstairs seeing all the Roger Dean prints.

After this Lorraine and I went for a walk around Lake Wood near Uckfield. However it was incredibly muddy, but we had our boots on and squelched around enjoyably enough for a while. Good to get some fresh air. There is a small lake there with is very atmospheric, bordered by small caves and unusual rocks.

Home, and then Lorraine started working on her bits and pieces for school, and I did some work on poems, and other bits and pieces, including speaking to Mum and arranging to come and meet her and Mas on Wednesday. Also girding loins for working in London next week.

Lorraine made an amazing turkey pie, which we ate while watching Cylons in the evening.

Below a detail of a pen drawing of the Tales Tom Topographic Oceans cover Dean did, and a shot of a branch reflected in the lake.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A blackjack beano for Klaudia

Up fairly early for a Saturday. Brought L some breakfast in bed, and then we got up to go into town. Lorraine getting another massage, as there was too much to do last week for one masseuse. I went to Starbucks where I worked for an hour and a half on Sin Cycle, feeling really good about this now. Then I sauntered round to Foodilic where Lorraine and Beth were, and I had a coffee with them and chatted to Beth. Then a spot of shopping, or more accurately returning some curtains we had bought, and buying new CO2 cylinders for our Sodastream. Doing our bit to not infect the world with a million bits of plastic. I also bought a new reusable water bottle for the same reason. It was pouring with rain, so we went home. Luckily Lorraine had driven into town.

Home, and then we got a cab to Anton's for a rather good meal to celebrate Klaudia's 14th birthday. Anton and Anne had prepared a feast as usual, with pulled pork and wings and a woof-woof like sauce, and curly fries and corn on the cob. Klaudia interested by the lyrics to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and looking at the cover of Sergeant Pepper lots. She is almost fully recovered from the flu she had all week. Oskar full of breans too. Had fun with them, and we all played a slightly chaotic game of blackjack, with Anne opting out. A nice evening, and Lorraine and I floated down to the station cheerful and well fed to get a cab home. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

A circle of green glass

Up early and did some billing and emails before I got the bus (being late) off to the Evolution Arts place for the Stained Glass window course. Making slow progress. Ben the likeable guy who runs the course tends to be reactive rather than proactive, so you have to ask for help. Some are far more insistent and doing so than me, which makes me feel a bit irritable. Still I managed to cut a fairly circular piece of green glass. I want to get the most out of the course, so I have to alter my approach and be prepared to be more of a 'pane' in class. Arf!

All confirmed for a few days next week working with Fernanda.

I had packed my bag with my computer and so on so I could start work in a cafe shortly after. Frustratingly I packed everything except my wallet. Chris, who I had a coffee with last week, stood me a coffee, and we had a fairly good chat, then I bussed home again, picked up my wallet, had a quick chat with Sonia, and walked back into town. I worked in Starbucks looking at my Sin Cycle poems in the light of Charlotte and Robin's feedback, which is actually helping me see the wood for the trees.

Then I walked home as Lorraine, was home early for her after the conference. She did a bit more work, and I did a bit more tweaking in my study, then we went off very early to the Preston Park Tavern for a spot of grub, and a couple of beers.  Lorraine really up and motivated after hearing inspiring speakers at the conference.

Then home very early for a cylon fest, not having seen Battlestar Galactica for two nights.

Below, our first practice piece, assembling the bits I have cut. I still have to cut slithers off the lead, solder it and then cement it in place, but you can sort of see what it is supposed to be.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bobbing and weaving

Bobbing and weaving today. Organising a few days freelance in London next week with Fernanda, which will be fine. Chats with Mum arranging to see her and Mas next week, and messaging with Carl and Toby, who was invigilating an exam (or as his autocorrect put it, 'invigorating' an exam). Also got some detailed feedback from Charlotte on Sin Cycle, which is very thought provoking and useful. Otherwise, worked on the Centaur libretto, and completed the first draft of the next scene.

Off for a walk in the afternoon to blow off the cobwebs and I racked up my 10k steps, listening to a Mayo and Kermode podcast. Lorraine off all day and evening at a Education conference near Arundel. Ate fish and chips tonight with mushy peas, and watched Professor Green's documentary's about Working Class White Men, which was insightful and sad.

Then I toyed about with stained glass window designs, listening to David Bowie's last album, Blackstar, which I think stands up with the best of his work.  Lorraine home late, but quite energised after a good day at her headteacher's conference. A short appearance by Romesh Ranganathan too, as his kids go to one of the schools in the area.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Dodging the deluge

Woke to the news that Ursula K LeGuin had died after a long life as a fine SF writer, whose book The Left Hand of Darkness I had enjoyed as a teenager. I read other of her books later, but The Left Hand of Darkness was interesting because the society it depicted was constructed around a different sexual cycle, where its inhabitants were gender neutral, and then chose which sex they wanted to be when they reached 'Kemmer' a point when they felt like breeding. Certain fish do things like this, so the idea was entirely plausible to me at the time.

A letter from Robin with comments on Sin Cycle, which were very useful, and I was really pleased with. Was contacted about doing bits of freelance I have a cheeky three days pencilled in next week working with Fernanda at her new agency, and the folks in Paddington wrote to check my general availability over the next few months. I cooked bean jar today. Smells of beany goodness drifting through the house. Lorraine said she thought it was my best one yet.

Gusty, and raining hard most of the day, so I dodged the deluge indoors. But in the evening went to Marine Drive, opposite the sea which was being beautifully rough and dark. Met Catherine outside and went to the launch of Alex Pearson's Blue Yurt training business. Although I was not sure what I was doing there, there were lots of interesting people. Ended up having a long conversation with Alex's upstairs neighbour Adriana. The rain had stopped when I slipped out and after walking some of the way, ended up bussing home to chat with Lorraine, and interrupted her watching of 'Death in Paradise'. There is no better programme if you want to look at sunshine and veg out.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Weirdly nimble

Continuing in beep/whirr mode, sent out MS to two new agents. And worked on the Telltale anthology, which was another thing crossed of my list. Lots of good poems in it, including one I absolutely love by Robin. My list is becoming weirdly nimble, which is exactly what I wanted from January. I am in fierce working mode, which is rather good. The next thing is to get my body weirdly nimble, because I am still festively plump, and want to sit about in the dark nights eating bad things. Luckily we've eaten our way through most of the bad things now.

Also got a letter from accountants saying I should have paid tax on the last day of December (I had it in my head it was Jan for some reason, and Andrew, recovering from surgery hadn't reminded me). I simply paid it today, however.

Klaudia's birthday, she has just joined facebook and twitter. A new new rite of being 14, although Facebook is not deemed cool by the young un's these days.

A mizzly gloom all day, I went for a couple of walks and just sneaked my 10k. Buying beans and parsley for my projected bean jar tomorrow. Top of Blakers Park home to a murmuration of starlings as I walked past. All the trees tweeting.

But I went around to Anton's house to drop off a card, and Klaudia was ill in bed so I did not see her.  I said hello briefly to Oskar who was playing football on the screen, and Anton who was preparing for a teleconference before melting back into the mizzle.

Lorraine with a proper cold, me just a man cold, streaming at night and feeling a bit shaky.
Cylons this evening. I made Lorraine a vegetable mash and vegetarian sausages with fried onions, and she snuggled on the sofa looking at Cylons. It is good to be married to someone who loves  Cylons.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Beep. Whirr.

Working hard this morning. I have utterly changed my policy on agents, seeing as many of them state in their guidelines that you can send them samples of your book (the ones that are accepting approaches) but can't guarantee to ever get back to you unless they are interested. I am just adopting a multiple, mail-them-if-they-have-a-pulse policy and turning it into a numbers game, until such point as anyone shows interest or I am done with the whole of the Children's Artists' & Writers' Yearbook. Then I will try another route. All this a long-winded way of saying I sent out my novel to two more agents. It is time consuming, because even if you have prewritten a covering letter template, synopsis and so on, each agency wants the information sent in different ways so you always have to adapt it. But machines don't mind doing this sort of thing at all. The policy from now on is one of unfeeling relentlessness. Beep. Whirr.

I sent out a short story too.

Off into town this afternoon, where I met Innis at 3:30 for a cup of coffee in The Marwood, to discuss life, business and so on. We are exploring a collaboration too, but we need a strong concept. Continued our discussion in The Seven Stars over two pints of Wolf Rock too, before I caught a bus home and cooked. As we were eating supper Lorraine's pal Sarah called around for supper, armed with a big bowl of salad. Turns out she was a month early, and the girls are meeting in our house on this date in February.

Another Cylon night, as we are binging on our DVDs of Battlestar Galactica again (not the original) which is I think is the best SF TV series ever made.

Below Innis and I sitting next to this water tap in the Marwood. Typically quirky, but it was a bit too drippy for comfort.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Lazy Sunday afternoon

Up at a reasonable time, but Lorraine sounding a bit croaky-throated and wan. Rosie and Innis arrived in Rosie's new car (a mini) to take us to Dawn's house. Anton had walked there in the rain. It was raining most of the day quite nastily. Had a lovely time there, drinking wine and eating a vegetarian repast that Dawn had made. I always feel very happy and cozy in Dawn's wee house, and love how you have an uninterrupted view of the Downs through the back windows.

Not much nicer than a lazy Sunday afternoon bantering with good chums, then after fond farewells with Dawn, the rest of us crammed into the new Mini and we sped through the rain home, Lorraine and I being dropped off  outside our front door.

Lorraine found a flat book package from Amazon damp under the doormat, luckily the books in it were unharmed: a hard copy of The Third Policeman, as I had to have it in the flesh as well as an Audiobook. I want to re-read it. And Ocean Vuong's prize-winning collection of poems.

Lorraine did preparation for school next week. I had half an hour on the sofa, then called Mum and read more poems from the various books I have bought recently. Then we watched the Cylons again, obsessively like geek till it was time for bed, and  getting ready for Monday.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thanks to the Cylons

A dreary grey day. Made Lorraine breakfast in bed, and then we got up and zoomed into town, where I had booked Lorraine an hour's massage. I took myself to my favourite non-ideologically sound Starbucks, and read poetry by Stephen Bone and James Sheard, enjoying both. Then I collected Lorraine, who said that she was coming back next week as she was only half done. There was a lot of work to be done on her apparently.

We sauntered up to Foodilic where we met Betty for a healthy lunch in her lunch break (vegetarian moussaka with two kinds of salad for L and I) chicken and two kinds of salad for Betty. Nice to catch up with her for a bit. Then she had to go back to work, and we did shopping and looked at curtains and other bits and pieces in various shops for some time, before grabbing a bus home.

A cozy evening in, with the weather being full of rain and drear outside. Read a bit of poetry wunderkind Kate Tempest's book Hold Your Own. Patchy so far, but not without interest.

Broke out the Battlestar Galactica box and started to watch the Cylons again. We'd watched them obsessively about ten years ago having borrowed them from Mason, when we lived apart. Lorraine would take them home and watch them on a portable DVD player in bed and go to sleep and have tense Cylon-related dreams apparently. Surprisingly late to bed, thanks to the Cylons.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Through a glass brightly

Up a bit late, but early enough to say hello to Dawn and Lorraine before they went.

A spot of work in my study before setting off to Evolution Arts to start my beginners course in Stained Glass that Lorraine had bought me for my birthday last year. Up a couple of flights of stairs to an art room, which reminded me of being at school a bit. Art rooms are great places. Three other newbies, all retired. Ben our teacher, and another student who had attended before and was working on his own project. Basics today, scoring the glass with a glass cutter and tapping the glass to break the section off. Then learning to bite off bits of glass, with pliers and a curved lead knife. Started to cut bits of glass off, and then we started work on our first practice project, which is a square made of four plain pieces of glass, and a circle of glass for the centre. Managed to cut three or four of the pieces, with a quarter circle cut out of the corner of each.  A nice chat with Ben after the class when I hung about like a swat, where I enthused about glass and told him about an idea I had, which enthused him and he we looked at overlapping pieces of glass together.  Really enjoyed the session, and enthused about glass in general.

Went for a coffee next door afterwards and bumped into the guy who had been sitting opposite me, and nice guy called Chris, a retired teacher. A good chat with hm about glass, and Shakespeare.

Then I bought a small baguette and fizzy water from pret and walked down to the Pier. Outside the pier I opened my bottle of water and it erupted all over me. Then walking onto the pier I took a bite out of my baguette. Within seconds I was attacked by three seagulls, one of whom grabbed the end of my baguette. It would have taken a pterodactyl to wrest food out of my hands, but I had to pinch off the beaked end, and eat the rest under a low roof, warily looking at the sky.

Then to Starbucks where I did some reading, before eventually getting a bus back homewards for four.

Spoke to Mum, and enthused about stained glass. Mas settling in back at home again.

A happy evening with Lorraine popping out for a single beer in the Park View while we waited for Red Chillies to cook our meal.

Home and we watched When Harry Met Sally, on TV, as Lorraine had never seen it. I like a good romcom, and hadn't seen this film for about 20 years.

Below the basic tools of glassmaking, and a screen faced thing seen in a Brighton pop-up show window. I like its wirey little heart.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A bit of lit in Lewes

Felt  cheerful this morning still. Up and doing stuff of one kind or another. Even getting a cut and paste book rejection (from the large agent I sent the children's book to yesterday) didn't phase me. I think they were just bouncing that kind of book at the moment. Resilience.

Put a chicken in the oven, and waited till Lorraine had got home, (Dawn was staying the night) before boofing off to Lewes to the John Harvey Tavern to a Needlewriters event to hear three poets: Jeremy Page, Mark Urbanowicz and Robert Seatter. Enjoyed the readings. Robert's was from The Book of Snow, a beautifully produced book mostly about snow and paper. He read very well too, so I bought the book. Jeremy read a short story which was quite funny, and about life on campus. I noticed a woman in the audience who I thought looked just like Caroline Lucas who, when she left, turned out to have been Caroline Lucas.

Also enjoyed hanging out with my poet pals in general, and Robin, Sarah, Stephen (who gave me a copy of his new pamphlet Plainsong Robin had a single copy of her new pamphlet, All The Relevant Gods too, which will be launched next week), Charlotte, Clare Best, Catherine Smith, Jeremy Page and so on. They are a nice bunch. Stephen gave Robin, Sarah and I a lift back to the station, and Sarah and I made off to Brighton. A lovely night, and I fashioned a chicken sandwich for myself when I got home.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A turning point

Spoke to Mum twice today, and Mason has been released back into the wild, which is very good news.

Another very productive day. It felt like some kind of turning point. After several hours, I finished my draft of Sin Cycle and have sent it to Sarah, Robin and Charlotte, who have all said they don't mind having it inflicted on them. After this I sent my children's novel out to two more agents, having had no response from the last one I sent it to. My targets this year to improve my resilience in the face of inertia and my networking. I need continuous but sustainable effort.

This made me feel in a good mood. I went for a long walk down to the sea to celebrate, and felt cheered in the sunlight and fresh air. I bought Jacqueline Saphra's book All My Mad Mothers (she was one of the T.S. Eliot prize readers on Sunday. I have also sent off for the collections from Ocean Vuong and James Sheard). And simply walked home again to do some more work, and then read some of Saphra's poems.

Lorraine home a bit late. A Sainsbury's delivery from a loquacious driver, who even before he had stepped in our house dramatically announcing, 'I have good news and bad news' about something that needed to be substituted.

Lorraine keen on a French cop show we watched tonight called Spiral, whose second episode started today with a severed head in a sink. I like how it is written, with lots of moral ambiguity in the characters.

Below the low sunlight made the views from the pier dramatic.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Productive day

Terrible night's sleep but a productive day. Feeling more positive and purposeful than I have in some time.

Lorraine waking up, then once I was thoroughly awake, went to sleep again after I had put my hand on her shoulder, which magically sent her to sleep as it does quite often.  I was in the wide awake club however.  I dropped off for a few minutes just before I got up, but  I woke up shouting No! After a quick nightmare about Calliope leaping at a magpie, which flew high up with her. After this I simply got up instead, looking out of my study window half expecting the scene to enact itself outside my study window.

Had a very good day's work, starting very early, which made me feel happier than I have felt for a while. I have also almost finished the group of poems I'm calling Sin Cycle, which I feel quite pleased with. They are freer, more irreverent and funnier than poems I have written before, but no less serious. I spent much of the day happily buffing them up.

Hus came around and finished off the floorboards work, which necessitated a good deal of banging and crashing. Had a coffee with him, and chatted. I like Hus. Spoke to Mum, and briefly to Janet. In the afternoon I went for a walk for getting on for two hours while listening to Woolf's Fire and Fury which is funny and depressing by turn. The characters described in it are vile. I wonder what Woolf is like.

More work on Sin Cycle when home, then I cooked a vegetable surprise when Lorraine got home. Back on Netflix and saw an episode of the new Star Trek, set in a parallel universe where Star Trek folks were bad. I remember an episode like that from the first series.

Below the entrance to the walled garden I popped into on my long walk.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Up with the floorboards

Up on with Monday. Talk of Blue Monday again, not that I buy into these things, but with dark grey skies and the rain pouring out of it, I counted my lucky stars that I wasn't pressed in a train somewhere in South London.

Hus came around with a friend and pulled up the floorboards in the hallway. Turns out it wasn't as bad as I feared. After a few hours work, they had fixed it. He is coming around tomorrow just to finish off. It did mean the day was full of banging and crashing which didn't help my concentration any. At one point they left to buy wood, and Calliope of course dived into the hole and disappeared for quite a while, leaving me to picture her being boarded in. But she emerged covered in dust some time later.

I continued the Great Sort Out , and going through various files and throwing stuff out, and tidying cupboards. It feels quite good. Also working on poems and having a long cold look at all my current activities. I spoke to Mum too, and Mas is still in hospital, and will be for the next two days at least until they finish testing him.

Went for a walk in the afternoon after Hus was done. I am listening to The Fire and the Fury, the book about Trump at the moment. As expected, it is damning. Fascinating in parts, but not particularly well written.

Ocean Vuong won the T.S.Eliot award today. I wasn't wildly impressed by his work on first hearing it,  although he did whisper a breath of fresh air into the room, and his work was about something real and important. I shall buy his book I think.

Lorraine home late, and we ate reheated biryani, which was as good the second time around, and went to bed early as neither of us had slept well last night.

Clouds I spotted on my walk in the afternoon.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Poetry at the South Bank

Got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning, and felt strangely grumpy all day, despite having lots of nice things to do. I phoned mum, and then got dressed.

Lorraine and I walked down to Cote for lunch.  Lucky Lorraine had to endure a bout of me moaning about my lack of success in poetry and writing and so on. The usual litany of January stuff from me. However my lovely wife had helped me sort my head out by the time we reached the restaurant. Problem is when I have a large moan I feel much better very quickly, but make everyone else feel horrid. Nevertheless we met Catherine and Tanya, and Guy and Tim. Interesting chats with everyone, including Tanya, who is a big fan of visual art. Was approached by old friend and colleague Spooner too as I ate.

Then Lorraine and I grabbed a cab, so I could get home in time to be picked up by Robin to go to the T.S.Eliot award readings. A tricky journey as part of the motorway was closed. However we managed to get to the South Bank in good time.

A few familiar faces, at 'the poet's AGM' again hosted by Ian McMillan, including Lucy, from Matty boy's agency, attending her first TSEs with a friend. Robin and I sat with Rishi Dastidar and Pete Reynard of Proletarian Poetry to whom Robin had sold two tickets. As ever, the readings were interesting. The best readers were Tara Bergin, Caroline Bird, and Jacqueline Saphra, the most unusual was Ocean Vuong, who read with a bit of a Michael Jackson voice. Douglas Dunn, a bit of a grand old man of verse was also shortlisted.  

Robin and I didn't hang around chatting, but she drove me home again, luckily the journey much easier this time. Had some good conversations about poetry and life in general while we were driving. Home at 11:30, and after eating a slice of bread, crept into bed beside Lorraine.

Below part of the mobs of poets and poetry readers. Robin and I attempt a selfie.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Biryani and Blackjack

Lorraine and I sloped off to Sole Sister's this morning to get our feet serviced. A nice guy sorting my plates of meat out, buffing them and getting rid of excess skin and sorting my bruised nail out and my slightly ingrowing big toenails. They almost looked like a real boy's feet at the end of it. Then we mooched about five ways briefly, and bought some vegetables and looked in other shops.

Spoke to Mum, and Mas is still in hospital for tests, but is bored and wants to go home all the time.

Then we took lots of stuff to Oxfam, me loads of books, and we also got rid of a few other bits. It is what is known in Kenny Towers as a house poo. Not necessarily pleasant, but everything feels a good deal better afterwards.

Then back home, and Lorraine did some epic cooking of biryani and other lovely side dishes, and I helped where I could. Suddenly feeling really sleepy and tired, and dozed for ten minutes as Lorraine worked.

Soon Anton, Anne, Klaudia and Oskar came around and we had a meal, then played cards afterwards, Klaudia's favourite card game, which is Blackjack and she is very good at it. My goddaughter will be 14 soon. Hard to imagine. 

It was good fun, and Lorraine's grub was delicious. Calliope, sitting in the middle of Lorraine's jigsaw, then getting involved with everyone as usual. Here is a photo of her sitting on Anton's lap while we were playing Blackjack.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The helpful blandness of Starbucks

Mason still in hospital. Otherwise a better day for me. Doing mind maps and just generally taking a helicopter view of my activities.

In the afternoon, I had a quick chat with Sonia, who said she noticed with approval how much tidier my study was, I walked it town and sat in Starbucks for a bit. For some reason I find this an excellent place to think and work, as do many others. It is partly the place's blandness. Also I think its position. There must be a strange kind of feng shui about being on the corner of two streets, where you can see the world going by. Anyway, I spent quite a bit of time in there working and thinking before I walked home again.

When Lorraine arrived home, we zoomed straight out to the Preston Park Tavern for a spot of dinner and a couple of beers. Lorraine had a good day today, with one of her staff writing to her board of governors to say what a good job she was doing.

Sloped home early, and boofed happily into the weekend.

Below the helpful blandness of the non-ideologically sound Starbucks.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Up early but feeling a wee bit jaded after an evening out with Anton. Enjoyed looking out of my window this morning at the mist coming down from the downs, and looking down on the backs of gulls. I wrote to Tracey first thing, but then managed to turn to day into one of those were I manage to drive myself a bit mad, feeling an urgent need to get on with stuff, coupled with an equal and opposite inability to focus, or find any inspiration. Everything I worked on, I made worse. Gah. A kind of frustrating standstill.

I enjoyed walking across to Hove to see Janet and Ken, and drink tea and share a couple of brownies. Ken was looking a bit brighter than when I had last seen him. There was a bus there when I left, so I simply jumped on it and returned, and found myself more able to work productively late on than I had all day.

Mason kept in hospital, though is not too ill, and was dressed and ready to go when Mum arrived to visit him. Luckily, she persuaded him to stay.

A quiet night in with Lorraine. I griddled some smoked haddock, and we ate this with rice and vegetables. All really healthy.

Reading a book that Romy lent me, called The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir of a year in which writer Joan Didion's husband dies suddenly and her daughter is fighting for her life. It is a well written and moving, but not exactly comforting last thing at night reading.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Time travelling

A brilliant start to the day, with Lorraine bringing me tea in bed. The day became slightly trying due to assorted first world problems not worth reporting. Not making as much progress as I had hoped, although had got a good idea down for a poem. Enjoyed cooking a big vat of turkey and vegetable soup, which I helped myself to liberally for lunch. In the evening out with Anton. I took an extended walk before I met him in the Joker as I'd cooped myself up all day.

There have been changes afoot in the world of chilli chicken wings. The purveyors of Woof Woof Wings have moved on from The Joker, to be replaced by another team who also serve chilli chicken wings with a different name. I suspect fowl play. While the new wings were perfectly okay, they were not the same as bone fide woof woofs. We had some grub there, and a couple of refreshing lagers, then at my request, we went back to the Mitre Tavern, a pub in Baker Street. This should be called the Tardis Tavern as it is like going back in time to around 1980. Most of the people look as if they've been sitting there since 1980 too. Anton was a bit sniffy about it, but I pointed out that people pay good money to go to foreign countries, but here you could visit the past for the price of a pint. On the way out I began to wonder if it hadn't actually been full of ghosts, and it might be completely different if we stepped through the door again.

There was much to discuss with Anton, mainly about Life with a capital L. So we went to The Great Eastern too. Here we sat next to a couple who were on their first date, but were quite chatty to us. The Great Eastern on a dark January midweek night like this a very nice place to be, being warm and cheery and not too crowded.

Fond farewells to Anton, and then home where I crept about quietly so as not to disturb Lorraine.

Below a quiet corner of The Great Eastern.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Happy hermit

Like a hermit today. All grey outside. After working on some poems first thing, I spent most of the day organising my workspace. The Big Sort Out as I am thinking of it. There is still work to be done, but there are increasing outbreaks of space and order. It feels great, and I feel the clearing out being reflected inside my head.  When in doubt, tidy up, as the Oblique Strategy cards say. Otherwise little to report.

I spoke to Janet who said she has long had a 'one in, one out' policy on books, of which she has many. I do frequently refer to my books, but only about twenty percent of them. Many of the others I have carried around in boxes for decades, dormant and never to be read again, quite a few of them yellowed and dusty and bought second hand in the first place. Why are they still in my life? This is not my usual way of thinking about books, but I am finding it very liberating. More than that, I am sieving out nuggets in the rubble.

A biblical email from Trace in California, too close to the big fires, and now subject to terrible floods. What next? Locusts.

Lorraine home early tonight, with a bag of meat products that she and Beth went halves on. A stir fry this evening.

The Hermit, from the Major Arcana, lofting the lamp of truth.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Anthology and absurdity

Lorraine off to school, and I started work right away too. First time for a while when I have been able to truly focus on my own work, and I have a huge cloud of things to be done. But I decided to simply do them one by one. Wrote to Richard. Then started read through the Telltale Anthology. Looking at the poems Sarah assembled, some poems I thought weak when we discussed them in December, seemed the strongest this time around. A reminder that submitting work is often just about finding the right reader at the right time. In short, luck.

I went for a walk midday, listening to the last of The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien, which has made me laugh out loud several times. It is one of the best novels I have read, and it sits in my mind somewhere between Samuel Beckett and Dante, but with added hilarity, written in a fluent high style and full of absurdities. I clearly remember being first recommended this book when I was 21. It has taken me till now to do so. It is a masterpiece of black comedy.

I walked to the sea, and on the pier, my iPone shut down. When I got home and plugged it in, it had 72% power. This has never happened before. My chief irritation was that my pedometer did not record all the good work I was doing walking.

Both Lorraine and I tired this evening, and we went to bed at half past nine, and I read most of The Chairs, a play by Ionesco, a theatre of the absurd piece, before dropping to sleep.

Below a view of the muted sea colours and overcast sky. The soul having to work hard to sing.


Sunday, January 07, 2018

A cheerful Sunday

Up fairly early (for us) on a Sunday. A keen cold wind today. Popped around to see Anton and Anne, as it was Anne's birthday, a glass of wine there and a good chat. Then into Sainsbury's to shop. I like shopping with Lorraine. A full trolly makes my lizard brain happy. Maybe this is why I look like Jabba the Hut.

Then Lorraine and I sorting things out in our guest rooms, till five thirty, when we popped next door to have a glass of wine with our new neighbours, Philipa and Harvey. We liked them and they have a smiling baby boy called Magnus who, curmudgeon that I am, is utterly sweet. Lorraine, smitten, instantly offered to babysit.

Home again, and I called Mum and Lorraine and I sorted our dinner out. A cheery day.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

At home

A strong domestic focus today. Lorraine and I enjoyably dragging things about in the house today, and packing things away in the big bedroom. Gradually we are establishing order. A good deal of opening boxes and looking at stuff and deciding its fate or where it should live. Surprisingly time consuming.

In the afternoon Carolyn called around, getting set for more travels in Mesoamerica, including taking in Mexico City. She is brave, because she feels trepidation before setting off, but does it anyway.

Friday, January 05, 2018

I know what I like in my wardrobe

Lorraine had a vile night's sleep last night, back into the school routine.  I was lucky enough to sleep in till seven, waking up to find the fairies had left me a cup f tea.  Got up and worked on poems, and then took copy comments then simply worked on the job till it was done.

When Sonia arrived, she said the living room looked much better now we had moved the futon upstairs. I told her that I was throwing things out, and she told me about a writer who had thrown everything out apart from a desk and his computer. He he lost lots of weight too, she said, looking at me meaningfully.

Off for a walk into town this afternoon, where I sold some books and gave others to charity. Enjoying the walk. Home and a bit more tidying and sorting. Spoke to Mum.

Then Lorraine home early, and we drove off to collect the wardrobe. We parked up outside and waited for half an hour for the nice man with the van, who had completely forgotten, but came nevertheless after finishing his dinner. Carried a wardrobe down four flights of stairs with the van man. It is a nice wardrobe, however, and at a good price so it was worth everything. Carried it upstairs at home and the paid the man with the van.

Soon after we got into a taxi, and went to meet Innis and Rosie at the Japanese restaurant at Seven Dials. We were early so repaired to The French Horn opposite, a pub with a drunken, shouty atmosphere, and cheeky pint of Doombar was badly kept.

A nice meal with our pals. Lorraine and I inflicted our Japanese tales on Innis and Rosie. Afterwards we went to the Cow, for a single drink, enjoying chatting to Innis. It was the bar where Lorraine and I hit it off ten and a half years ago, when it was called The Tin Drum. Rosie had to travel north for work the next day, so we went our separate ways.

Home and I fell fast asleep on the sofa watching the excellent Bojack Horseman. Lorraine woke me up and we went to bed.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Enthusiasm from thin air

Both up at six this morning, as it was Lorraine's first day with children in the school. I had a good day, continuing to ease myself back into productivity, writing two of my new short poems before 8am, which I was rather pleased with, then getting on with some work for Pat and the French Bloke till mid afternoon. Had to summon enthusiasm from the January ether somehow, but once I got going it wasn't too bad, helped by a 45 minute walk at lunchtime to blow off the cobwebs.

I cooked for Lorraine and we had a relaxed evening.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018


Tidied my desk this morning, as a prelude to restarting the year. Begun reorganising books in the house. I am going to weed out books I've not looked at in decades to make room. I've decided it is madness to try and cram increasing numbers of books into your house, when you know in your heart you'll never look at many of them again. 

Our chest of drawers delivered early this morning, and taken up to the big bedroom.  Lorraine working at home for a few hours this morning, then left to work at school the day before the children arrive. I took a brief from Pat and the FB on some work for the next few days, and most of the day doing the rather fiddly job. Beth had stayed overnight, zoomed off this morning too. We are all thinking about John as his dad is unwell in hospital.  

I found I was not at all in the mood to do work, although I simply got on with it. I think every year should start with a few weeks of getting in the right mood to begin thinking about working, before having to get down to the vulgarity of actually doing anything. However I managed to find the 'on' switch somehow. Weather mainly execrable but I found time to have a couple of brief walks around the block. Happy to have Lorraine home this evening, and pull in the snail horns and retreat indoors.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Opening wardrobes

Last day before work drags Lorraine and I off in different directions. So we spent it together zooming about in the teeming rain. We were on a mission to look at wardrobes and a chest of drawers. We went to dozens of places, some far out of town. One place attached to a cattery, which was very bizarre. A small raised pond with enormous koi in it, which momentarily transfixed me. Driving over the downs home, through enormous puddles and the hilltops lost in mist.

Went to one new store, which had rather nice furniture. Here we met Dylan's mum Sophie, and had a good chat with her. Young Dylan doing well, and I was very pleased to hear that. Lorraine and I lurking so long in the shop that we were brought coffee.

Later, however, we bought a sturdy and newish chest of drawers from a charity shop, and then drove to someone's house on the edge of town and paid a deposit on a lovely wardrobe we will collect on Friday. Wondering if the wardrobe people were Narnian fauns, but I was disappointed to find they weren't. We were fairly pleased with ourselves.

On our travels we had popped into seeing Beth for a cup of tea. John's dad is in hospital, so he's in London with him, poor lad. So Beth was on her own, so we invited her over for a roast dinner, which felt like the last indulgence of the festive period. We all played scrabble, and drank some beer. Me rather more than the others.

High winds tonight, from Storm Elenor, to spice the ceaseless rain. I like how they have names now.

Below are they shy or just a bit koi?

Monday, January 01, 2018

A domestic bubble

Monday 1st January 2018. Lorraine and I spent the day happily sealed in our domestic bubble. Breakfast in bed, and hauling things around in the house, such as the futon from downstairs to the big bedroom, which suddenly made our living room seem large and airy. All this seemed to take up lots of time, but we felt happy with ourselves when it was done.

Spoke to Mum on FaceTime, and saw some photos Toby had put on Facebook from his trip to Japan. Blue and crisp skies and scenery, as opposed to the overcast skies and steady rain here.

Lorraine coming up with another culinary marvel of a cheesy sauce and pasta. We also played a couple of games of scrabble. In the evening we watched a couple of programmes about the rock group Queen. A happy day, if not terribly eventful, for the first of the year. I am feeling lucky and well disposed to life at the moment.

I also had a Proustian moment. I opened a bottle of Greene King IPA, a beer I can't remember drinking before, and as I inhaled its hoppiness it suddenly took me back to the IPA my grandparents had in Guernsey. They used to keep bottles of IPA and Pony ale under the stairs, and I can't remember if they were Randalls Bobby IPA, or Guernsey Brewery IPA.

As for New Year's resolutions I have none, other than a need to ruthlessly declutter. I'll start with my office.