Monday, 31 December 2012

What I reallyreally want...

I'm not very likely to get everything I really want, so I ought (by the standards I was brought up on) to be saying "Well, that won't happen so I'll settle for this instead...". 

Instead I am going to remind myself that it was on February 26th, 2003 that I said to an old friend over lunch "Well, I'm never going to meet anyone as interesting as my Favourite Baritone..." - and then walked into my Favourite Baritone outside the Post Office, the very next day

I look back on this weird event, as its tenth anniversary approaches, and I think that if the Almighty had wanted to give me a good kick up the a**e S/He couldn't have picked a better way to do it. 

That one (very brief) encounter in the street remains one of the biggest shocks I've ever had in my life.  Favourite Baritone had no reason whatever, at least none that I have ever discovered, for being there, on that particular day, in that particular place.  It was nowhere near where he lives.  And he stopped walking down the road right next to me.  I only looked up because I thought the pair of feet that had stopped so apparently deliberately right beside me must belong to someone I knew. 

It taught me, more effectively than any amount of preaching and teaching and pep-talking could ever have done, that anything that is within the laws of physics can happen; anything, however improbable

Favourite Baritone has gone on to have a pretty good ten years - lots of career success (well deserved), plus getting married and becoming a dad.  His missus has had quite a good patch too; getting married and becoming a mum, obviously, plus continuing her own rather fabulous career as a Principal of the Royal Ballet to some pretty wonderful effect.  Talk about a Golden Couple!  More power and happiness to them in 2013...

And I have gone on to have an eventful decade; a lot of which would not have happened without my having had that bizarre lesson in the Nature of the Possible.  My dad would probably still have passed away and I expect that Baby Bro would still have got his degree.  I imagine that national and international events would still have been much the same, too.  But I'm fairly sure that I would never have moved to London, found a job that paid me enough to live on, or started writing again, if I hadn't had that encounter.  So my thanks to FB, for being on that street corner, that fateful day, and kick-starting all that for me.  I owe you, mate!

May 2013, then, be a year in which more interesting things happen, in celebration and recollection of that first, startling realisation - that almost anything can happen, and therefore some good things may...

And in the name of optimism, I am going to ask for at least one of the following:
To get my writing properly published - and widely read;
To write lots more;
To meet interesting people and make new friends;
To get my own place to live and finally get out of living in shared flats and other bizarre digs;
To be healthy and for all my family and friends to be healthy too;
And a hunk of my very own. Preferably an intelligent, creative one who can do DIY and likes my cooking.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Until New Year's Eve, then...

It seems the nutjobs were indeed wrong, since the world did not end at 11.35am today.  However, today is the last time I’ll have guaranteed access to the internet until December 31st.  So, the continuation of history notwithstanding, this is probably my sign-off for 2012. 

If the world does end today, just a little later than predicted, it’s going out on a high of sorts for me.  The sun is shining, the temperature is above zero, I saw a jogger dressed as Father Christmas this morning (complete with heart-rate monitor), the trees on Brentford Eyot are gleaming in their winter bark colours of red-gold and olive- green, there’s a lovely dog running about on the Green, I have coffee and nougat and sesame biscuits in the office, I’ve revised and typed up to the end of chapter two of “Gold Hawk” and am happy with it so far, and I have the next nine days off work.  And last night I met TCI and G for a pre-Christmas beer-and-nachos at the Prince’s Head in Richmond, and a cute chap a couple of tables away kept making eyes at me.  Think a balding Jason Isaacs crossed with a balding Liev Schreiber; i.e. seriously attractive, despite the follicular issues (the nachos at the Prince’s Head are excellent, too, but that's not my photo, just one I swiped off the internet.  Our Nachos had lots more cheese, plus lashings of guacamole and sour cream, and the beers should be Fuller's Organic Honeydew, not whatever that is [looks like a Guinness and a pint of orange squash, actually]).

Got home, a little tipsy and very cheerful, packed my bags for Christmas, discovered I had not posted K’s present – boll*cks! – put it to take to the post office in my lunch break today, and actually got myself to bed at a reasonable hour.  I then dreamed I was hiking in the snow in the Cairngorms with a certain JL Renner.  When we stopped for lunch he made hot chocolate over a campfire for me.  Good man! 

That makes three really delightful hunk-dreams in the last few days; I am now married to William Houston, RDJ drives my removal van, and Mr Renner makes me hot choc.  It seems my subconscious is on a high of sorts as well.

Solstice Greetings, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you!

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The day before Midwinter

I awake tired, in the dark
Wishing you were here with me,
And I remember
The world will end one day
But it is not today.
The seasons and the sun
Will both wind down;
The universe itself
Implode, unimaginable, or burn.
And the Gods alone know
What eyes may see
That silent day, that darkness.
But for now, the days
Go on, and the seasons turn.
The world will end one day
But neither the doomsayers’ woe
Nor my quiet heart
Can change the fact
That it is not today.
The sun will rise tomorrow
And the next day,
And I will wake again
In the receding dark
Alive and alone, and still
Wishing you were here.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The curate's ball gown/opera/ dream

Well, I had a very mixed day yesterday.  

I’d booked a day of annual leave, thinking it’s nice to have a midweek day off before Christmas to do any final bits of shopping and so on.  Also I had a ticket for “Robert le Diable” and that started at 6pm, so I was going to have to ask to leave work early at the least.  Since in the event I’d done all my Christmas shopping, I had a lazy morning and then went to the V&A to have a mooch and see the “Ball gowns” show (which closes in early Jan).  

It was a very odd show – the first half (mostly from the 50s and 60s, with a few more modern classics) was about 80% terrific, and the second half (contemporary designers’ red-carpet gowns) was about 80% terrible.  If it had been selected with the express purpose of demonstrating that the contemporary applied arts are just as desperate as the contemporary fine arts to be innovative at any and all cost, even if it means being crap, it couldn’t have made its point better (& I think it was meant to have demonstrated how damned hip and wonderful they are!).
And as for the opera; well, I actually left at the interval – only the second time in my life I’ve ever done that.  It STANK.  The music itself was uninspiring (alternately hammy-rumbly and sugary-tinkly), and the production was irredeemably bad.  It was “ironic”, and so heavy-handedly so as to be just plain embarrassing.  I’ve seldom seen anything so unrelentingly cheesy in my life.  

At least if one went to Disneyland the cheesiness would be sincere; this was all eye-rollingly superior.  I swear it was more self-consciously knowing than a Carry-on film, and without the redeeming silly humour.  It sucked.  My heart ached for the poor cast, who were bravely doing their best, with rubbish to sing and a director with his brain up his arse.  

You will gather I hated it.

I then went home, feeling rather cross, and got on with some typing, and the laptop got hiccoughs and wouldn’t save.  In the end I left it running, with its little error message saying something along the lines of “I can’t do this, why are you asking me to do this?” and went to bed.  I arranged a large book propped open to mask the light from the screen, and tried to ignore the constant chuntering-computer sound, but of course I couldn’t sleep with it purring away a few feet from me.  I got up at 1am and checked, and it was still jammed, and I thought “sod you, then” and switched it off at the wall...  So will probably go home tonight to an injured complaint of “you switched me off in a bad way, you’re a mean missy”.  I don’t know if the stuff I had typed (about two thousand words) will have been saved or not.  There’s supposed to be an automatic back-up-save every ten minutes, so in theory I shouldn’t have lost too much (cross fingers).  Poor old laptop, I think I do have to accept that it’s nearing the end of its useful life.  

At any rate, by the time I had relaxed enough to actually get to sleep after all that, I had less than six hours before my alarm went off.  I think I was still pretty stressed about the laptop, since I then had a really weird dream.  It was a glorious summer day, and my mum’s friend Ninetoes and Robert Downey Jnr. were helping me to move house.  I had bought a lovely big house with a garden, and as house-move-help goes, Ninetoes and RD Jnr. made a pretty great team (at least once she had stopped making eyes at him), so things weren’t all bad by any means.  The downsides were RD Jnr. insisting on playing just one song, over and over, on the stereo in the pantechnicon (I have nothing against Duffy, but “Beggin’ you for mercy” has fairly repetitive lyrics when you hear it just once, let alone six times in a row) and the bizarre house-warming gift I had been given from work; a urine-driven coffee-maker. 

My subconscious goes to some very strange places at night.  As new green energy concepts go, I think wee-power will take some beating.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Kingston-upon-Thames; a review

I don't normally do shop reviews, but I have to make an exception.  In recent weeks I've tried to do Christmas shopping in central London, in Chiswick and in Richmond.  Some expeditions were more successful than others, at least as far as finding what I was looking for.  But all were crowded, hassled and stressful.  The West End is ghastly at this time of year, so I expected the stress and hassle; but I didn't expect Richmond, or the Chiswick High Road, to be as grim as they were...

But yesterday I went into Kingston.  I needed a branch of Lakeland, and there's one on Thames Street, near John Lewis.  And I made two very interesting discoveries.

Firstly, I discovered that Kingston on a Sunday afternoon, nine days before Christmas,was busy enough to be bustling, but not so busy as to be unpleasant.  The streets were just crowded enough to feel lively, yet I never once had to slow down or break my stride; there was always room to manoeuvre, room to breathe, room to stroll and stop and window shop...  There was a great atmosphere, there were buskers playing in the streets - some of them very good - and a huge craft market near St John's church.  Kingston has all the big High Street names you'd expect, plus a lot of independent retailers, plus a lot of cafés and restaurants (also a good mixture of big-name chains and independents).  Staff in the shops were busy but not desperate; no-one looked as if they wanted to die, and I can't remember when I was last served by so many friendly people in such a short space of time.  I found everything I was looking for except one book.  And because I went to Kingston, the business of doing the last of my Christmas shopping was comfortable and civilised, even fun, and that is a rare thing in late December.  It was Christmas shopping heaven.

Secondly, I discovered the best hot chocolate ever.  There's a branch of Montezuma's on Fife Street.  Montezuma's make some of the best chocolate around, so of course I had to go in, even though it was half-past two and I was meant to be finding somewhere where I could grab a coffee and a sandwich.  But, having entered the store, I found myself looking at a sign saying "Café upstairs". Yes; there is such a thing as a Montezuma's Café.  Oh. My. God.

I crept upstairs, suddenly aware of how tired my legs were, and found they had plenty of seats and some mellow light jazz playing; and two minutes later I was sinking my nose into a delectable Large Canadian.

Yes, I know how kinky that sounds.  Montezuma's called it a Large Canadian, not me!  I was not doing anything enjoyably wicked to Nathan Fillion.  I was drinking superb, rich, dark, strong hot chocolate with a generous splash of maple syrup in it, and I was in paradise. 

The maple syrup made the hot chocolate devilishly sweet, but also gave it that subtle, smoked-butterscotch note that is the reason why maple syrup is such an invention of the Gods anyway.  The final marvel is that as well as being the best-tasting drinking chocolate I've ever come across, this mug of heaven also didn't get a skin as it cooled.  How do they do that?  The only other place I've ever found hot choc that didn't skin over was in Granada (where it isn't really a drink - it's goo, and is intended purely for the dipping of churros). 

Anyway, I had a toasted cheese sandwich, a peaceful sit-down with nice music, and the best hot chocolate I've ever come across in my life.  Then I went out, restored and refreshed (having paused to buy a few truffles, of course) and managed to buy everything else I was looking for.  Then I got rained on; but no day is perfect.  And at least the chocolate was.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Anyone want a laugh?

If you'd like a slightly peculiar read for the weekend, or for the Christmas break, drop me a line.  Chapter one of "Gold Hawk" (at least, draft version 2 of "Gold Hawk" - further revision may yet occur!) is now available for Reading Group review purposes. 

So - would you like to be in my Reading Group?  Get in touch if so.

It isn't quite that simple, actually.  I need to trust that you aren't some kind of weird, twisted sort who will pinch my magnum opus.  You would need to be seriously weird and twisted, I'll grant you, since this story isn't nearly classy enough to be really worth stealing.  It's fairly frivolous stuff with no pretensions to literary quality - think Avengers/X-men Fan Fiction, filtered through a distorting imagination, and you're close to home.  But I'm allowed a bit of creator-paranoia, I hope. I don't want to be plagiarised; not even of my lightest matter.

Anyway, it pleases me to see chapter one revised and typed up and looking like a real story (instead of looking like a dog-eared A5 notebook filled with my best awful scrawl in black biro). 

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I had two very odd dreams last night.  As always, they leave me wondering what the heck my subconscious is playing at.

Dream 1: My former boss from when I first started at Kew has got a new job - as Director of Tourism for Bury St Edmunds.  Now, I doubt very much if Bury St Edmunds has a Director of Tourism in the waking world, but in the dreamworld it does, and it's Helen.  I don't think she was too enthusiastic about it, though, as the main thing she was doing was sending everyone she knew on facebook a steady series of chivvying messages about how important it was that we all visit Bury St Edmunds ASAP.

I've never been there, have no particular desire to go there, and have no idea where this sprung from.

Dream 2: I am married to William Houston.  Now, as a ginger fetishist and a fan of intense actors generally, I do know where this one came from!  But it strikes me as odd to dream about being married to a long-standing minor crush of mine when I am deep, deep in the throes of a major crush on someone else.  Incidentally, the married dream-me was very happy, though as I distinctly remember calling my handsome ginger hubby a "daft bugger" at one point I guess my subconscious doesn't think marriage would make me any less charmless than I am as a singleton...  Oh well.

Oh well, indeed.  At least a girl can dream, eh?!

And meanwhile the freezing cold weather has improved marginally today - the temperature has actually gone above zero this afternoon, for the first time since Monday morning, and the 4-days-thick frost on Kew Green has all thawed, at least for now.  Robins are singing bravely in the raw, damp air when I go out. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

December weather arrives, I swear, escape disaster, and sing in public

Paphos was warm.  Not outright hot, except for the first day (my birthday - what bliss to swim in the sea, sunbathe with a good book and eat a large banana split in the sunshine, in early December!), but the kind of warmth where one can stroll and relax and sightsee wearing jeans and a tee-shirt and a pair of sandals.  A couple of days were sunny, a couple were overcast, one was rainy (with a spectacular thunderstorm), and one was bright but very, very windy.  Not bad for December.

But shortly after I got back to the UK, the winter weather arrived here, with a huge wallop of thick white frost and temperatures that have stayed below zero all day.  Sigh.  At least it didn't do that in Cyprus.

Coming home, last Saturday evening, I found a note stuck to my bedroom door saying "The washing machine flooded, some water went under your door, hope everything's okay".  Not a good thing to return to.  I unlocked and opened the door with a sinking heart, and saw a massive dried-out tide-mark about four feet into the room, and I stood there clutching the handle of my suitcase and swearing like a marine.  A very angry marine with Tourettes. 

I could see at once that the big canvas bag I had at the end of my bed, with all my spare bedding stored in it, had borne the brunt of it, but short of turning out I had no way of knowing how much further it had spread under the bed - & into all the stuff like paintings and electrical goods, and all the pictures for my 2013 calendar, that I have stored there.  It was late and I was tired and cold and I just couldn't face it, so I went to bed and slept - surprisingly well, which shows I was tired - above who-knew-what.

But the gods were on my side.  When I gritted my teeth next morning, and shifted the wet bag of sheets and towels to look behind it, I found one soaked shoebox containing my least-favourite pair of sandals (not the end of the world if they never recover), and a second damp shoebox containing photos (pics on old-fashioned photographic paper are pretty salvageable if separated quickly and air-dried).  And everything else was fine.  Basically, the linen bag had sopped all the water up and held it like a sponge.  And since Sunday was a cold but dry day, with a good breeze, I was even able to get the sheets and towels dried off.  They're now stacked in the corner, smelling a bit funny but otherwise okay, waiting to be washed and dried again properly over the next week or so.

Someone up there must like me.  What's more, we didn't need a plumber - the leak happened because my flatmate had taken out the washing machine filter to clean it and put it back upside down. 

What else?  Since I got back, I've been practising for the carol service, chugging in to work through the freezing fog, and starting to type up "Gold Hawk" in the evenings.

The carol service was today.  It went well and had a lovely atmosphere.  I think I had got my head round "Rejoice and be merry!" and the lovely piece of Bach, and I survived the Irish carol (largely by piping right down and just relaxing into the very beautiful male voices that were booming away behind me like a granite wall of sound), but I never did get the hang of the horribly complicated arrangement of "There is a flower".  And while I was away in Cyprus the others had learned parts for all the congregation carols; so I was left rumbling along in my usual way, just singing the melody an octave down, and feeling rather out-on-a-limb while everyone else harmonised around me.  That kind-of sums up my singing career, come to think of it.

I do feel Christmas is coming, now, though.  Nothing like a good dose of carols and readings to remind one of that.

And O, fan-girl-happiness, my Dvd of "The Bourne Legacy" has arrived.  Along with David Bintley's new "Cinderella" for BRB, which was a birthday present from my brother Stephen ("legacy" is my birthday present from me).  So I have a couple of pleasant nights in to look forward to - one of ballet and one of lechery...