Friday, June 23, 2006

Nightmare / World Cup Injury


Lewes Garret. The Last Word in Luxury 3.41pm The last 24 hours have been a total nightmare.

Someone has trashed my beloved motor, The Last Word in Luxury, by crashing into it, smashing the back axle and knocking off a back wheel. It was parked on a supposedly respectable street in Royal Leamington Spa.

I only heard the glorious news late last night when a Day-Job colleague called me. I felt numb. This morning, it had vanished without a trace.

Enquiries have revealed that it was Plod who nicked it, ordering a local garage to remove it, without checking with me.

I have had unpleasant conversations with Plod and the garage all day. The garage wants £105 from me. I think Plod should pay, but, naturally, he is refusing.

So, I have lost my car, been stitched up by Plod and these guys at the garage, and my insurance cover won't cough up a penny.

I do not know why I don't just put my money in the litter bin and set fire to it. It would save a lot of time.

God, I feel angry. I am thinking of writing to the Chief Constable of Warwickshire, but I do not expect it would do any good.

If was not for kindly and wise friends like Brian, who I saw yesterday for a drink at London Bridge, I would probably end it all here and now.

World Cup Injury (Flashback to Bank Holiday Monday, 15 May, 2006).

9.25am. Lewes Garret. My back was not good this morning despite me doing the prescribed exercises. It occurred to me that the last time I got a serious physical injury was four years ago, in Spring 2002.

Maybe like Beckham or Rooney, I am destined to get crook every four years in the run-up to the World Cup! That is what prevents me from playing for my country, reducing me to purchasing England socks (three pairs for £2.99) from TK Max in Brighton.

1.56pm. Lewes Garret Garden, beside the lilacs, as white as my hair! Still feeling a bit low, although it is beautiful, sunny and hot out here. I did a hour's work on Oliver's Garret and got up two Friends' Poems. Not bad.

Then I tried an hour's paperwork and did less well. Admin is so boring and, generally, so unnecessary. Why do the banks keep sending out all this bumpf. I believe Kenneth Williams used to put it all in a drawer and never open it, cheques and all.

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Tongue and Groove

Tongue and Groove.

6.22am The Runaway, Lewes Station. Great start to the working week – I have missed the 6.07am train despite getting up at 5.25am. What a cock-up!

On the other hand, it has given me time to look at The Guardian and see that the jobs drought has ended. There are three good jobs in the Media Section, after months of nothing. It is time to make tracks.

I have my smartest (interview) suit on, but am not looking forward to this week. My problems of last week could well turn round and hit me in the face today. Moreover, there is a think-tank in London scheduled for Wednesday, with a ‘PR guru’ and a celebrity involved.

This kind of event is fraught with peril. You can come out of it holed below the waterline – or smelling of roses. Certainly it will need to be my top priority. 

Lewes's salsa club SalsaMagic was good last night. I did the lesson (Larry's Cuban steps, having demoted myself to Intermediate Class), and then went upstairs and had a chat on the balcony with Larry and the girls. Made it more sociable. SalsaMagic (pictured) is a great club!

9.04am London Marylebone concourse Chiltern Railways have screwed it up again. Don’t you just love them!

All the trains to Leamington, except the 9.20am, have been cancelled because of signalling issues. They really are beyond a joke. I pity anyone who has to commute on Chiltern on a daily basis.

At this rate, I am unlikely to arrive at the Day-Job before midday.

9.16am London Marylebone – Warwick train. It comprises only two carriages and is packed to the gills. The Chiltern apologist has spoken his weasel words, explaining the reasons behind this particular cock-up.

I am seated next to a text message maniac and opposite an obese man in a Chris Moyles T-shirt. The haddock next to him seemed to blow me a kiss as she sat down. And people tell me life is good!

I need to do some blue skies thinking for the Covent Garden Think Tank. Exhausted, uninspired, challenged by what suffers my eyes, I am frankly not in the right frame of mind.

And we are away! On the Chiltern cattle-truck to God knows where.

This is what I wrote in the rose garden yesterday afternoon:

Lewes Garret. 4.30pm. It is wondrously fragrant out here among the roses with the birds chirping and the sun still hot on the brow.

It has been a good weekend so far. Friday night was superb. I went to the Summer Retro Ball at the All Saints Centre, featuring Tongue and Groove (pictured left). It was an amazing, themed night.

They had organised everything to the most minute detail. They and their gang were the band, the special effects, the food, the prize-givers, the bar, the cocktail bar, the ticket sellers, the chill-out area providers. You name it, they had thought of it.

The good folk of Lewes had turned out in some extraordinary outfits. Big wigs were everywhere as were white suits, psychedelic dresses, hair bands, and flares.

The music played by the band was eclectic. Lots of hippydom with the odd Oasis and Clash number thrown in for good measure. It was a shame we felt too exhausted to do it justice.

I particularly liked the effort the band put into the production. After the interval, for instance, the lead singer appeared outside among the tombstones, wearing just Y-fronts and a pair of ski's, to invite the audience back in.

Anyway, I would thoroughly recommend these dudes. 

On Saturday, I watched the Lewes Carnival go by – taking pictures with my 1961 Kodak camera and my Nikon EM (I need the latter to know the exposure for the former), and then went on a tour of the Gundreda chapel at the St Stephen's, and Lewes Priory itself. Very interesting.

Not much of great significance survives of The Priory (mainly the ruins of an old toilet block and servants' accommodation, although, to my surprise, the guide pointed out an almost intact altar from an ancient side-chapel.

I walked over to it and laid my hands on its surface. Extraordinarily I could feel a feel presence there and an image flashed into my mind of it enclosed and candle-lit with the monks chanting or singing Mass in Latin.

I turned to look back at the small group of mainly elderly tourists and that spiritual image was lost.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Trinidad and Tobago / Blair & Brown

Trinidad and Tobago.

Lewes Garret Last night as I was travelling down from Leamington, I wrote this: 6.56pm. Thank God! Praise the Lord! England have finally scored.

I have been trying to monitor their progress on my mobile telephone.There is a running commentary of sorts running on the BBC website which I can access in a very limited form.

England have not been playing well. I am glad I have not watching the game. I dropped into the bookies at Victoria Station where a crowd had gathered to watch it on their little telly. I could not even see the screen.

‘What is the score?’ I asked an unshaven gentleman.

‘Nil, nil,’ he grunted almost inaudibly.

‘Pardon,’ I said.

‘NIL, NIL,’ he shouted as if it was my fault.

I slunk off in abject silence.

Reading the commentary on my mobile telephone – surely the strangest way to experience a football match – I could tell the commentator was increasingly frustrated by England’s succession of blown chances.

They are going to have to try much harder than this if they are to beat Brazil (or Argentina, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic or Germany).

The day has been tricky. A people problem which could potentially become a bit awkward. Investors in People have really put the cat among the pigeons.

I also had a row with the people at AXA PPP Healthcare who are now, it seems to me, welching on their agreement to back for my back treatment.

Typical insurers, they are delightful until you try to claim. I have recommended that we sack them.

The journey down seems interminable. On the Warwick – London Marylebone leg I was in a carriage air-conditioned to fridge temperatures. I eventually moved into a carriage occupied by two elderly Australian couples.

‘It’s been two-and-a-half hours already,’ said an old dear, as we were crawling toward Marylebone at half-a-mile per hour.

The ancient Aussie bloke in the other couple said: ‘A long way to come for a cheese and tomato sandwich!’

Today (Friday): 8am Lewes Garret. It is beautiful outside. Absolutely glorious. I slept well but my back is murder again. What cads the insurance people are for trying to welch on our arrangement!

I am going to London today to meet a magazine editor. There will also be plenty of celebration in our household later to mark the end of the GCSE exams.

Moreover, I have received two emails – one from my dear friend Dominic Baster – and the other from fellow blogger Olivia of Olivia's London Dispatches who has kindly said she will link to my site from hers.

Blair & Brown (Flashback to Friday, 19 May 2006)

Lewes Garret 10.38pm. Bed. Noisily stormy outside. What kind of weather is this for mid-May? It could be deepest January. I am worried because I am not writing poetry at any great rate.

Stayed sober again tonight. Even though wine was out, I only had a couple of tiny glasses. I have come across very few of the people Alan Clark mentions in his diaries – we are from different generations.

However, he did mention drinking in the Ritz with 'Franko' – Frank Johnson who was, I recall Deputy Editor of the Sunday Telegraph when I started working there in 1995.

I was such an insignificant journalist that the great Frank Johnson would not have been aware of my existence, but my then drinking mate, the paper's defence correspondent, quaffed with him and quipped: 'Franky Johnson – Cockney w*****'.

This was a joke I never understood, although I would smile to humour him. Clark writes that Franko was 'clever, his wit and insight so engaging'.

Earlier, I bumped into a political hack mate who lives down the road from me in Lewes. A very decent chap who I have known for yonks. Like me he has reported for the Daily Star and Sunday Telegraph.

Unlike me, he is still in journalism, at the Daily Express. Interestingly, his analysis of the Blair/Brown situation was identical to mine. We agreed Blair was determined to destroy Brown's chances of winning at the next General Election.

Tony Blair secretly wants David Cameron to win!

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Cotesbach Rioters / Inclement Conditions

The Cotesbach Rioters.

Leamington Garret. 7.34am. A beautiful morning, and, hopefully, a beautiful day.

I am in a fairly good mood, despite not sleeping well last night. I went over to Cotesbach and saw Tom, Sophy, Dave (pictured on the classic motorcycle he has restored), Phil, Jane, and Taciturn Tom.

A good night. Won at Staghorn again (and bought beers for everyone with my winners). Tom was highly amused to hear of the first live broadcast of a Staghorn match last week.

Soon Staghorn will be as big a pub game as pool or darts!

I took a photograph of the village pond (left) which I helped to build (one of my proudest moments!)

There was much talk of celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of the Cotesbach Rioters (and their riot) next year. Sophy had been having a meeting with the villagers in the Hall about it.

I think it could be a most enjoyable occasion to revisit the marvellous piece of history of the Cotesbach Rioters.

I got back at just after 11pm and caught the last two songs at the Jug and Jester jam night (although it had closed its bars) and had a beer on my own at Kelseys.

Inclement Conditions (Flashback to Saturday, 20 May 2006)

9.43am. Lewes Garret. Inclement conditions; wet and wind. Despite the weather, today's outlook is fairly bright. The combination of staying sober, and taking cola and ginseng instead of booze, are working wonders for me.

8.16pm. Lewes Garret, Living Room, basking by the open fire. It is cold, wet and windy outside – like the bleak mid-winter – and almost as inclement within.

Had a great time on an outing to Eastbourne, shopping, walking, talking, and beating the slot machines. Played the horse-racing game, putting in 10 pences on the red or the blue (2-1) odds, trying to spot winning runs, and also backing the white (25-1).

As a result of this strategy, I covered my costs much of the time and, occasionally, won £2.50, at which point we would retire from the game. I was quids in by the time we quit the arcade on the pier and headed for the shops to spend my ill-gotten gains.

The weather was wonderful; sunny, hot on the face, and windy. Walking down one side of the pier, I were able to lean 45 degrees into the wind it was so strong. The sea was wonderful hue of green with vertical explosions of spray as the breakers hit the groynes. A sublime sight!

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Leamington Love/Hate / Mr Logic

Leamington Love/Hate

8.15am Overcast outside, hungover inside! Drank too much last night. My back is hurting with a vengeance.

This is what I wrote last night: Leamington Garret. 10.20pm by Big Ken, or the even more pleasing 22.22 of the computer clock. Joni Mitchell on the boogie-box, Brazil having beaten Croatia, me in shorts, drunk. All is well.

The sky above Leamers is still fairly light. God, I love/hate this place (love the place, hate its people - sometimes).
Moreover, my back is feeling better – and I am happy. Very happy! I loved the Brazil game which I saw down at TJ's bar, in Leamington. Boy, they will take some beating. Class turn!

I revised, quite successfully, my new poem for Oliver's Poetry which is OK and could be improved on before publication this Friday.

What else? Even though it is dark outside, it is not. I can see the light in the dark, and it is so wondrous. I am almost tripping on that light.

Mr Logic (Flashback to Sunday, 21 May 2006).

9.19am. Lewes Garret. Blustery, wettish and cold, a great deal of loud chirping emanating from the garden below, the roar of the A-road in the distance.

Had a bad night for reasons I cannot reveal. I slept so badly that I awoke at three-thirty, my back in agony, and had to get up to knock myself out with painkillers.

After that, I had a horrible nightmare featuring Mike Parker, my ex-boss at the Daily Star. And when I eventually re-awoke at nine-thirty, there was still trouble.

11.40am. Lewes Garret. It is freezing up here, very unpleasant outside; I can hardly see the South Downs through the rain.

I have received a most helpful email from Demon, reading just like something out of the Mr Logic strip in Viz magazine:

'Having read your email query, it appears indicative that you wish to acquire a free or cheap statistics package that you could use with your home page at Demon.

'Unfortunately, we at Demon are NOT in a position to advise you in this regard. Please accept our sincere apologies.'

Yeah, thanks dude!

Met an interesting guy in Eastbourne yesterday – an old bloke called George Musgrave (pictured who runs a 'museum' devoted to his work. This might sound rather egotistical but it was good.

George Musgrave had toy soldiers which he had designed – I remember buying them from Boswells in Oxford as a small boy – and a 40-minute, 16mm film he had made with a cast of 20 in 1949! Also, a birthday card from the father he had never known (killed at the Sommes) and a Penny Black stamp.

I was amused to see my first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) and a typewriter of the sort I had used on Fleet Street, displayed as exhibits! My life is already history, I thought (correctly). George Musgrave seemed a decent cove.

I took a photograph of him. He looks good for 90, I must say. And who can blame him for celebrating his life?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Nightmare Town / French Letters

Nightmare Town

Leamington Garret.

This is what I wrote last night at 8.37pm by Big Ken: Nightmare Town! Leamington is really doing in my head.

It has been an appalling day. Despite the dry heat and bells ringing out, I feel utterly miserable.

Also, I am dog-tired. I have been for a swim but it has made me no better. Nothing seems certain; all turns to dust.

8.02am Overcast but the sun peeking through. I am feeling infinitely better today, just because yesterday was so bad. Do you ever get that? Where almost anything would seem an improvement.

After watching Italy beat Ghana, at a nearby sports bar, drinking three pints of Stella and drafting out my England poem, I returned to the flat and went to bed.

French Letters (Flashback to Monday, 22 May 2006)

6.59am. Lewes-East Croydon train. Heavy grey clouds above. What I would like is to become a successful poet. Throughout my life I have strived for success but somehow it has always eluded me.

I have watched my mates become national newspaper editors, vice-presidents of major companies, television presenters, star comedians and so on.

I would love to be reading my poems to a packed room of people and to bask in their enjoyment and appreciation. But, then, perhaps I am a dreamer and self-delusionist with little hope of achieving this success.

9.20am. Leafy Lainesford, Home Counties. The bus was waiting at the station. I and a number of grey and/or dreary looking individuals embarked. I sat behind the driver and read my Alan Clark Diaries, occasionally glancing up to take in the passing suburban mansions in their verdant glory.

The training centre, in a corner of whose reception I am currently hiding with a cup of herbal tea and an apple, is a bland building with an officious air about it.

The lady at reception has been on her walkie-talkie demanding a 'little replenishment' (it is spotless and well stocked). On the wall, there is a large sign which reads: 'STATE OF VIGILANCE: BLACK SPECIAL'. What the hell does that mean? There were clearly expecting me!

The man on reception tells me I cannot check into my room until midday and that my course starts in an adjacent building at 10am on the dot – around 34 minutes and 32 seconds away. A guy has walked in who looks totally like the comedian Harry Hill. If only it were Harry – that would jolly along proceedings.

1.37pm. A little plump lady is loudly telephoning her team back at the office. The lunch hour is nearing an end. The course is going OK. The facilitators are the sort of career trainers who speak in strange voices and have a bedside manner – functional but not inspiring.

The other people on the course are a mixture of junior and (just) senior civil servants. Some very pleasant people, particularly a Scottish forestry bloke and a Welsh scientist.

6.20pm. My room, the Lainesford Garret. A friend has called me to ask a favour (immediately granted) and also told me what happened when I blacked out during our last meeting.

God! It was not good. Jauntily, he said he had left his home and his girlfriend and been with 'some woman' over the weekend. He wants to return to India.

Enjoyed the afternoon, although a trial. We had our first group 'task' – just like Big Brother – and, after much group hesitation, I volunteered to lead it. Didn't do too badly. A long and complex task was completed within a very tight deadline, but I was chastised for 'losing' one member of the team, interrupting people, hurrying along, and using my laptop to draft mission, vision and values statements. Mea culpa!

Have been feeling remarkably ill. Partly the early start; partly the stress of leading the session this afternoon; partly what my friend told me. Dinner was jolly. Quite pleasant.

She said she rose at five every morning to get into work at 7.20am and rarely went home before 7.30pm. She usually got back at around nine, in time to prepare for bed. I was amazed by this. Although she said she had a social life, it was clear to me that her life was her work.

But good for her! A Scottish lady with a strong work ethic. She was glad to be rid of David Blunkett who she said had been a shocking swearer. Charles Clarke she had liked. (I like Charles Clarke and feel sorry for the guy). John Prescott she loathed. Who does not dislike John Prescott?

Even when I worked on the Hull Daily Mail in the early 1980s, I built up a healthy hatred of John Prescott for swearing at me – using the F-word – down the telephone.

But as Auberon Waugh used to say, he has no doubt served some historic cocktails in his time as a cruise steward. Listening to these guys makes me realise that Alan Clark was right – civil servants do, on the whole, loathe their politician masters.

I like the two guys from Wales on the course. One of them said over dinner that it was disgraceful that we were in 'student accommodation when the course cost so much'.

The other one claimed he had read a newspaper article revealing that the person who invented the kind of programming we had been taught had been hooked on crack-cocaine and kept making late-night telephone calls threatening to exterminate people. Can this be true? I am prepared to believe anything in this parallel universe.

Most exciting thing that happened today was that one of the gang asked to look at my old brown case. I showed him the inscription inside: 'Camus A, 5 Rue Rampak, Paris'. He told me that Albert Camus was a famous French writer. This might have been his bag.

I must confess I have not read the work of Albert Camus, but, if I have his bag, I must put that right.

In a strange way it augurs well for my writing.

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Here We Go! / The Great Escape

Here we go!

4.38pm.Lewes Garret, garden It is beautiful out here and blisteringly hot. We watched the England - Paraguay match which was a triumph. Three points, under roasting conditions with a bizarre referee.

Of course the negative pundits are looking at the England - Paraguay game and picking fault with England's second-half performance and Sven's substitution decisions. What these soccer grandees forget is that the coach is planning an entire tournament, not just one match.

He is conserving England's naturally limited resources for the big matches and rightly so.

I must write a poem for next week's site update on England's World Cup hopes and the current football fever, and take a good, relevant photograph.

My front, downstairs window is a giant England flag, and a canvas England flag is tacked on to the first floor window as well.


The Great Escape (Flashback to Thursday, 25 May 2006)

7.29am. Lainesford Garret. The last day of the course. Rarely have I so been looking forward to the end of an event. I am very grateful to my Day-Job for sending me on this course, but doing it has made realise how damn good my previous tutors Chris Keeble and Tom Peters are.

As for my gang here, any bonding between us is purely superficial and temporary. I would be surprised if anyone on this course kept in regular contact, let alone became fast friends.

I have learnt quite a lot about myself, using them as a mirror, but I am dreading today, when, allegedly, they will be making a tape recording with their first impressions of me (and this for everyone). Time to shatter the surface of the Lake of Tranquillity i.e. go for a swim in their pool.

8.29am. It was colder in the pool today. Once again I was a lone swimmer, plashing through the fallen leaves on the surface.

On the way down to the pool, I played Frisbee with myself, running along to catch it. I then walked down the path and found shabby, disused buildings, a falling down greenhouse and old banger cars. It felt like I was looking at the back of a beautiful oil painting.

I packed randomly and rapidly, and climbed into my suit. My exit strategy is to say as little today and try to get out of this place with my ego as unscathed as possible. If I can, I will buy a big card for the tutors. They have not been brilliant but I do not want to leave them with hurt feelings!

4.27pm. Clapham Junction - Lewes train. Phew! I am out of there. A funny last day. It started strangely with the older tutor complaining that we were not all horribly hung-over.

'People used to get so drunk on the last night, we had to hire a specialist tutor to deal with them,' she said wistfully. We looked at her as if she was stark raving mad.

In our groups for one last time, I was touched by the feedback the other members of my group gave me. It was kinder than I deserved. We went round the group saying what we had thought of each other, while our tutor tape-recorded everything. It was quite emotional at times. I realised what an absolutely decent bunch of people they were.

At the end, the hilarious Welsh schools inspector joked to the tutor: 'Now it is your turn to receive feedback.' She almost had a fit, saying it was our course and, besides, there were no tapes left. The forester said: 'You can have my tape. I don't have a tape player.'

The tutor almost blew her top, and flatly refused to allow us to say what we thought of her and her teaching, claiming it was a waste of time (and missing the rather glaring fact that we were winding her up). She had totally lost us.

At lunchtime, I talked the people on the course into playing Frisbee. It was great fun. The forester was a tidy player; the rotund Scottish girl was game though static; the jolly mum was marvellously lacking in co-ordination; the Ministry of Defence chap was enthusiastic although butter-fingered; and I particularly enjoyed watching the graceful economist.

There was a bit more feedback in pairs in the afternoon, although we were now down to 10. The scientist had been taken sick, and the pregnant girl had returned to work - called back by her department. Then, at last, it was over.

The final task was filling out the evaluation form. This the tutors tried to rush. All the same, I had time to write that, although the content of the course was good, and, working with the people on it had been superb, the quality of presentation by the tutors was weak.

I mentioned the nursery language and their lack of engagement with us at mealtimes, and ended up saying that the course members understood each other far better than the tutors had done.

10.52pm. Lewes Garret. Just been checking out the supposed former owner of my bag, Albert Camus, famous French writer. I have not successfully cross-referenced the street name written inside the lid with him yet, but it is looking increasing likely that it really was the case of Albert Camus.

How extraordinary that the case of a surrealistic should have been used in my surreal comedy act; and that it should now carry my poetry. To be associated in this odd way with Albert Camus is a great omen.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Perfect Day / Albert Camus

Perfect Day

Lewes Garret 9.33am. A beautiful Sussex day. Phew, what a scorcher! – as we used to say on Fleet Street. I slept like a log. 

Felt quite ill after tea yesterday. My workload, all the prescription drugs et cetera had got on top of me. My chiropractor thinks I am getting better, although it is not at any great rate. While she was pummelling my back yesterday, she told me an amazing story about her dad.

Apparently her placid old man, a former pilot, had got into a road rage incident with another old age pensioner. The other crone had been driving on the dad's tail and received the traditional two-fingered salute.

When the dad rolled up at a nearby service station, the other OAP had appeared like an old bat out of nowhere and started battering his windscreen with a walking stick –so powerfully that the cane broke in two.

Instead of doing the sensible thing of driving off (NEVER get out of the car where road rage is concerned!), the dad got out to try to tackle the raging oldster.

Predictably enough, he himself was battered and retreated to the car and drove off. What happened next is a little unclear in my mind, but somehow the other guy, who later said he was disabled, fell and injured himself.

He went to the accident and emergency department of a local hospital and then made a complaint to the police about my back doctor's dad.

While I was lying almost naked in her surgery yesterday, she told me the state of play was that he was being interviewed by the police with an expectation – plighted to him by his solicitor - that he would be let off with a caution.

But, no, when my chiropractor telephoned her dad, it seems he is going to be charged with assault. How very unfortunate!

It has turned into the battle of the Victor Meldrews!

Lewes Garret, Living Room. 7.48pm. It has been an idyllic English summer's day. There are so few of them that when one arrives of a weekend it is a special treat indeed.

After stuffing myself full of liquid Nurofen to arrest more back pain, we traipsed off on the train to Hastings which was more beautiful than I have ever seen it. And it was not even particularly busy.

The weather was Mediterranean – turquoise sea, cloudless deep blue sky, intense heat on the face. It reminded me of Cannes in the late spring. God, how fantastic!

I was equipped with three cameras: my 1961 Kodak Retina, 1970s Nikon FM with superb 200mm and 28mm lenses, and my 2005 mobile phone camera, which hardly represents progress. Nonetheless, I took pictures with the full trinity during the course of the day.

Lunched at the Neptune, the best fish and chip restaurant in Hastings. The food is always superb and the service divine.

After lunch I walked past the tall, black fishermen's huts and the whitewashed yacht club onto the rocky shore.

I got home at around six and immediately went out again to the supermarket, buying salad, gravadlax, sausages, cheese, and bottled beer. Made a mega-salad, which was rather tasty, with plenty left over .

Then, another excellent episode of Dr Who – starring The Devil.

As I sip my second Grolsch and see the sun gently go down over our Sussex garden, I cannot help but reflect it has been the Perfect Day.

Albert Camus (Flashback to Thursday, 1 June 2006)

Lewes Garret. 10.14pm. Totally knackered! I have driven 370 miles today and been at the wheel for more than eight hours, in between working frenetically in bright Welsh mountain sunshine and heat.

I loved the drive there from the Leamington Garret – you could see the Brecon Beacons from about 50 miles away, and, motoring westward, the landscape became more and more beautiful. I stopped for breakfast at a garage cafe straight out of the 1950s. Forget Little Chef, this was the Real McCoy.

At the event, I met a photographer called Mari. For some reason I told her about my bag having belonged to the French writer Albert Camus (pictured at the top of this page).

To my amazement she said: 'I did my dissertation on Albert Camus while studying history in France.' Coincidence piles on coincidence. Extraordinary!

Tonight is the eve of the launch of Oliver's Poetry.

I am not ready but, tired as I am, I have been trying to fix up the blog, and put up a poem by me, and one by Byron.  

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Friday, June 02, 2006

The Beginning / Looking Forward To The Past

The Beginning

Lewes Garret. This is my opening letter to you; the first blog of many. Friday, 2 June 2006 is an important day for me because it marks the launch of the Oliver's Poetry website - a window to my poetry and that of other people.

I plan to publish a new poem every week, illustrated by a photograph. Aspiring - and established - poets may also send in their poetry to reach a wider audience through the site.

So with all this going on, why am I writing a blog? Well, I want the website to be more than a resource for those who love poetry. I would like to put that poetry into context, to paint a word-picture of the world inhabited by this poet and his friends.

This blog is my diary; no more, no less. In its composition I have been particularly influenced and inspired by four people: Samuel Pepys, Auberon Waugh, Alan Clark, and Helen Fielding.

What this quartet have in common is that in their own remarkable ways - truthful, fictional or a blend of the two - they made diarising popular: riveting, enthralling, unputdownable reading. They made it seem real, even when it was not. I do not know if I will be able to match them. Perhaps it is foolhardy to even attempt it. But I will give it my best.

This blog is entitled Oliver's Poetry Garret and is largely written in two garrets - one in Lewes, East Sussex, and the other in Leamington, Warwickshire, UK.

It will differ from most blogs in that it will - simultaneously - go forward and backward in time. I shall explain. Today is ground zero, missive number zero, the alpha of this project, and the entry comprises a blog about the present and the future (which you are currently reading) and a backblog which begins to tell the back-story.

My subsequent posting will be a blog for 3 June 2006 and a backblog for 1 June 2006; the next up will be the blog for 4 June 2006 and backblog for 31 May 2006, and so on. Eventually the blog and backblog, although posted together, will be separated by years and tell very different stories about very different Olivers.

I want it to be honest, thought-provoking and entertaining. That's what Oliver's Poetry Garret is all about.
So let's roll! Enjoy!

Looking Forward To The Past (Friday, 2 June 2006)

Lewes Garret. 1.10pm. Lunchtime - and a break from the Day-Job.

On Fridays I work at home. The Day-Job is most busy - it never stops.

My back is bad today. As you will learn from these backblogs - if you come to follow them day after day - I slipped two discs in my back on Easter Sunday and have been in not inconsiderable pain ever since.

Despite performing many back exercises, visiting a chiropractor for five or six weeks and swallowing a wheelbarrow load of pills, the injury is showing little sign of abating.

I was truly immensely tired last night after my near-400 miles journey and Day-Job and website exertions.

I hope you will enjoy my Blogs and Flashbacks (Backblogs). The concept of Blogs will be something with which you are doubtless familiar. The Flashbacks are trickier because you are effectively reading a story backwards. All the same, I believe this will have its own special reward.

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