Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Exeunt Omnes : Jason Tilley's India

Hallelujah! A miracle has happened. I have found a great new day-job! I am leaving Leamington Spa! I'm returning to the big, bad city of London!

I can hardly believe my luck. Although I have been happier here over the last few months than before, quitting Leamington for gainful employment is an opportunity I have to - and will - seize with both hands.

It has been a long time in coming. I have lost count of the number of jobs I have applied for over the past two years.

I became so desperate at one point last year that I foolishly enrolled with almost every headhunter and employment agency in London. All to no avail. Until now.

It could not have come at a better time. When I came back after Christmas, my dear flatmate Attila Szalo expressed a burning desire to jack in his job in Leamington to travel in India.

So I invited my old friend Jason Tilley, who has spent the past five years travelling and photographing on the sub-continent, round to talk about India with Attila.

(Incidentally, I selected 18 of Jason Tilley's brilliant images to display with this blog.

Jason's tales of travelling India were extraordinary and, in some cases, rather disturbing. For instance, a sleazy bloke spiked his drink in a bar and then followed him back to his room, resulting in a narrow escape.

I would absolutely love to travel in India, but, as when I went to Ecuador, I suspect I would spend a lot of time avoiding other Westerners.

Attila has put in his notice at work and leaves on 18 February and I hope to arrange a good send-off for him.

Then I shall leave about a month later. (My best efforts to tie up loose ends and negotiate a reduced notice period ended up meaning I was leaving in eight weeks rather than three months).

It is all a bit weird - rather unreal. I cannot get my head around it.

In order to help make better use of the next month, I have joined the nearby and expensive gym - Pure - right round the corner from the Leamington Garret.

It is 52.50 pounds sterling for a calendar month and I reckon I will have to use it at least a dozen times to get my money's worth out of it.

Easirt said than done as I am often only here three full evenings a week.

Today was my first day at the gym, so I got up at 6.20am and went for a swim before work; then went in and told everyone I was leaving; went down to London for a meeting; came back and returned to the gym.

Pure is a lovely gym, even if the human scenery is not quite as spectacular as on the streets of Belgravia (where I was this afternoon).

I like the swimming pool. It is as if the Leamington Garret has its own beautiful, private pool - just a minute's walk from the penthouse!

On the poetry front I have not made much progress. At the weekend I printed out 10 of last year's crop and have started editing them, but anything and everything distracted me.

Today, on the train back from London, it dawned on me that my valedictory appearance on BBC Coventry and Warwickshire is next week, and I had promised the station's poet laureate, the highly affable Jo Roberts, that I would write a poem about Coventry Precinct!

I started it but, having penned only two lines, started chatting to a friendly girl from Birmingham called Lydia who tried to convince me that Brum was an extremely welcoming place.

It occurred to me that she might be right. Perhaps, I should have lodged in Birmingham rather than Leamington Spa. (Too late now).

But I digress... I did not fancy having to find a new flatmate. Having had one good one (and one very bad one), I was not keen on playing Russian flat-lette once again. (The scar has not fully healed).

The Landlord - Mr Rigsby out of Rising Damp - has kindly agreed for me to stay on after Attila goes at no extra rent (after a wee verbal tussle).

Attila's charming sister and brother - Zsofi and Peter - are staying in the Leamington Garret at the moment which has greatly improved the quality of the food we are eating, and also caused the Garret to be cleaned in the nick of time for Mr Rigsby's visit.

It is late on Sunday night now and I have just returned to Leamington Garret to find that the bureaucrats on the local council have taken down the 9am to 6pm parking restriction signs and replaced them with 8am to 8pm ones. They have also removed the disabled parking.

The former means I will have to set off for work by 8am every day and then park the best part of a mile away from the Garret between 5.15pm and 8pm every night to prevent some Nazi contracted by the council giving me a parking ticket for parking outside my own home.

I am not even able to buy a residents' parking permit because this street, despite its many residents, has been classed as 'non-residential' by local authority morons!

As usual there was absolutely no warning of the impending change in regulation and no consultation. I really hate the local penpushers. And yet still I pay the council tax to bolster their fat wage packets.

Now it is quiet and cold in the Leamington Garret; almost ten-fifteen with only a few lights still in the block of flats. I can see no one walking around, or doing anything.

Attila is away, presumably in London, and his brother and sister have gone back to Hungary, after a successful stay.

I feel like I am in a numbed state of limbo at the moment. Yesterday I made a list of the things I needed to do before leaving Leamington on the morning of Thursday, 20 March.

It came to 52 items! After working away at it most of today, I have ticked off only four of them!

The worst of it is that I wonder how much of my leaving plans are related to what I feel I ought to be doing - 'to do the right thing'.

When in reality, the vast majority of one's work colleagues, for instance, most probably don't give a fig whether you, or anyone, goes or stays.

I am organising an evening leaving do, but, if previous experience of day-job leaving events up here is anything to go by, it will be a quiet affair.

Regular readers of this journal may recall my efforts to gain a rounded knowledge of English poetry by reading - from cover to cover - the New Oxford Book of English Verse.

The last time I mentioned this I had reached Andrew Marvell, who was marvellous (don't excuse the pun!)

Now at last I am on my progenitor and hero George Gordon Byron. But, boy oh boy, have I suffered on this poetic journey!

I have read some great poetry but also some of the dreariest verse. There certainly seems to have been a slow patch in poetry in the half-century before William Blake came along.

Between Marvell and Blake, I read (some good, some dull): Henry Vaughan, Thomas Stanley, John Bunyan, Thomas Traherne, John Dryden, Charles Sackville, Aphra Behn, John Wilmot, Matthew Prior, Jonathan Swift, Isaac Watts, Alexander Pope, Henry Carey, James Thomson, Samuel Johnson...

And: Thomas Gray, William Collins, Christopher Smart, Oliver Goldsmith, Thomas Osbert Mordaunt, John Scott, William Cowper, Thomas Chatterton and George Crabbe.

I enjoyed parts of a lot of these dead poets, but it was like a breath of fresh air when I reached Blake and went into a purple patch of him, followed the great Robert Burns, the brilliant William Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Samuel Taylor Caleridge.

Before Byron, Walter Savage Landor, Charles Lamb, Thomas Campbell, Thomas Moore, James Leigh Hunt and Thomas Love Peacock slipped in.

And I still have hundreds of pages still to read!

I have a couple of days of no-drinking to go.

This year I have decided that rather than being on the wagon for just January, I would extend it to 10 percent of the year, which means not drinking for 36.6 days (it is a leap year). Or this Wednesday night.

I have not really missed the booze, apart from in certain situations, like getting back to the Lewes Garret on Thursday night after a hell of a journey on the M40, M25 and M23, and really, really fancying a glass of red wine.

I went to The Stage's New Year at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, London, for the first time in about five years.

It was strange being the only sober person on that huge room awash with people and champagne.

One of the many things I like about showbiz folk is their tremendous optimism in the face of adversity - at least publicly.

I met one of the girls who didn't become Maria on the hit BBC show. She was delightful and told me enthusiastically about her pantomime and her singing lessons.

Later, I got chatting to a very pretty girl who told me about her forthcoming engagement at the Kings Head pub theatre in Islington, north London.

Only after she had left did a mate tell me, 'That was Abi Titmuss - John Leslie's ex.'

I remembered her name from the popular press. I have never been very good at recognising famous faces!

 More than ever I left the party thinking that we are all getting older; none of my generation can truthfully describe themselves as young any more.

Perhaps surprisingly, I felt quite sad to hear of Jeremy Beadle's death.

When I wrote about television for a national newspaper, I often used to attack his cruel prankster shows.

However, when I met him, he was most pleasant, despite his avowed hatred of journalists.

And Jeremy Beadle took it in good part when I successfully played a prank on him live on radio, and later wrote about it.

If nothing else, he was a good sport, although his true personality will always be a mystery to me.

It is late now and I need to turn in soon in order to make it to the Pure health club before work tomorrow.

I went five times in the first three days I have been a member, but I am not sure I can keep that up.

And I am very worried about my fast-approaching appearance on Coventry and Warwickshire Radio on Tuesday.

I have written about the council's plans to demolish the precinct after decades of redevelopment.

It made me almost nostalgic for my days as the local pop writer on the Evening Telegraph in Coventry (1987-8) - with Jason Tilley taking brilliant photographs for me - but I spend far too much time with my head flush with yesteryear.

Now it is Wednesday February 6 and I have achieved my goal of not drinking for 10 percent of the year.

I have also pointlessly driven 407 miles today and am exceptionally cream-crackered (much more of which in a forthcoming blog).

I am trying to write this on Attila's tiny Hungarian laptop and finding it near impossible (my fingers are too fat) so for now I shall publish (without checking it) and be damned!


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Anonymous Tsantsa said...

Well that's one in the eye for the headhunters that you got a good job all by yourself!

Haunting pics. And to think they were all high-powered businessmen until the headhunters got hold of them and took their pound/s of flesh!

Tuesday, 12 February, 2008  
Blogger Oliver said...

Thanks. You could be right.

The headhunters keep sending me the details of unsuitable jobs now.

I am taking great pleasure in simply ignoring their foolish missives.

Monday, 18 February, 2008  

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