Friday, December 22nd, 2006
Friday 22nd December
cool, grey and still
Tis the season not to go to official events. Watched Crash the other night with
Gabriel, Peter out at the Governors’ dinner, both of us two feeling a bit down on our
luck; another one I missed when it was new. A gentle, blowsy, slightly crass movie
with its heart in the right place, but it’s a funny thing, in the USA they think this is all
about the RACE problem, whereas to anyone outside that peculiar territory it’s
blatantly a movie about the GUN problem. I tell you, if guns could be had over the
counter in the UK, I know a few relatives of mine who’d be doing life by now. (And
others who would be dead, of course). Listening, Low and Cockburn. Drinking, a
James Bond. Shopping, cleaning floors, peeling the chestnuts we scrumped with
Maude in Patcham Woods in October, putting up streamers, frightening the cats,
Sunday the ham and Lulu’s party; tomorrow to the magic wood, but right now it’s
time for the final episode of Rainbow Bridge.
What did you expect, at the end of Bold As Love? A happy ending?
Have a totally random Christmas and a confabulating New Year. Signing off.
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
weather same as it was an hour ago
Proof-reading, the fragility of outside links, ah, now I remember why I gave up on
them, but then the pages get so cluttered with behaviours, which my nanny treats like
suspect popups, annoyingly. Anyway, dommage, Running-Dog, famed irreverent
chinawatch blog, from inside the belly of the dragon or is it phoenix, is gone,
(unsurprisingly),hope they are okay, can find no news of them later than August.
Replaced the link with a profile interview of the editors. That quirky french blogspot,
the reason why I used it as my Green Day link is gone with the wind. Never mind, it
can stay. Mulan and Empress Wu links replaced with (I hope) more stable material…
The bitch about scafell landscaping retrieved from where it had fallen down a virtual
radiator, and i decided to keep the grebes tho’ I can’t find their link. Replaced it with
Anyway, that’s one ready to upload.
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Follow the bouncing ball
Tuesday, December 19th, 2006
19th December, Tuesday
“Cold snap” continues…
Last night I finished Gravity’s Rainbow again, sixth time of reading; the first is
unrecorded, the second was in 1978, in Singapore. Passed the anachronistic helicopter
joke (which I’ve never thought very funny), through the Raketen Stadt, which I used
to like because it’s so like an (anachronistic) video game, with its collapsing buildings
and arbitrary location shifts; or like a T Mobile ad. But it goes on a bit. Past Geli
Tripping’s lyrical green summoning, and there go the I Ching feet, and finally the
00000 launch flashback, with all its lascivious, guilt/s**t orgasm detail (this book was
not written to be read by me, I read it inspite of every sign that says DO NOT
ENTER). And so goodbye. I’ll be a different person next time.
have you ever waited for it? wondering whether it will come from outside or inside,
finally past the futile guesses as what might happen…
The fourth time I read GR I started it in Feb 99 (yes, it is a bit obsessive, isn’t it?), the
beginning of a great year. I wonder how long before I pick it up again, and what will
have happened to me by then?
Next time I pick up one of the big three, (probably after a festive break) it will be for
a long time I used to go to bed early…
I’ve just realised that the above constitutes a rare, normal use of the internet and a
blogspot. I’ll be downloading ebaum videos and catloguing my books on here yet.
hope not fear tour
Sunday, December 17th, 2006
Clear night, starlight, almost chilly
The dark red page with the “crucible of change” text is up again on Bold As Love the
website, it was always my favourite. This means that it’s all over, put to bed (tho’ I
still have to finish proof-reading). And it’s the last waltz for the Triumvirate, although
not quite the end of the story, one more episode to go.
There is no armour against dumb luck.
You get what you need.
The freedom of the rose tree is the rose.
That milkman of human kindness is a hard working lad.True, there was a fair amount
of talking between the songs, but a three hour show, and the hope not fear tour
consists of Billy Bragg, with. . . Billy Bragg and his stage crew. How his voice
survives I do not know. Cracking rhythm guitar. Poor man is one of those people the
mejafolk never noticed is a terrific musician because duh, he does politics doesn’t he?
But never say die, eh? No paseran.*
*I found a bitching anti-European anti-leftwing website by that name, just now.
Attacking Women’s Hour for its wingey radical opinions, for heaven’s sake. BUT, he
won a prize for his blog last year. Who from, I wonder?
(all the romantic defeats, all the misused slogans, corpses in the mouths of the stupid,
and all the inchworm victories. A bnp councillor in Dagenham is going to look like
crumpled rose leaves, if the Long Emergency really gets its teeth.)
Oh no! My supply of Siberia hardbacks turns out to be the Italian edition.This is
dreadful.Turn loft upside down and inside out. Antique video cameras, boxes of old
toys, bodyboards, whyonearth are we still keeping Gabriel’s pushchair, what are these
random pieces of timber about? Siberia refuses to turn up, ooh dear.
The traveller, Excellence
Saturday, December 16th, 2006
Bright and faintly chilly
Christmas, ouch, and Bibi isn’t moving very fast, oh dear. Back to usual long daft
hours after the break, that’s the problem with R&R, the work just sits and waits for
you. The script for Siberia the movie arrives… shall I read it? Maybe not. Maybe I’ll
read it at a later stage, if movie really going to happen
What are we going to do for New Year’s PG?
(former plans involving my parents having been scuppered)
Partner mutters something about can’t we just stay in, next thing I know he’s booked
us into Pinxo People’s NY Eve upstairs party. Excellent news! Hm, wonder what the
centre of Brighton and Hove will be like? Sodom and Gommorah, most probably.
London To Brighton
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
Same as it was ten minutes ago
Went to see London to Brighton, it is very good. I’m going to give up going to see
harsh movies. No more guns, no more abject grit, I’ve had enough for a while.
Think I’ll stick to Studio Ghibli over Christmas
I wonder what Milo has against New Scientist. He’s opened my cuttings folder and is
shredding the contents…
Map End Dagger Show
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006
grey and mild, surprise surprise
The Feast of St Lucy, (13th Dec 88) one of Gabriel’s major artworks, is still on the
basement wall. It has something astronomical about it, I think, and a real feeling for
balance and colour. Happy birthday Lucy, hope you got the card.
The Chinese proverb “Map End Dagger Show” refers to a botched assassination
attempt on the man who was on his way to becoming Shi Huangdi, the implication is
that you often only find out who your enemies are at the last moment of your dealings
with them (compare, you always find something the last place you look, duh).
Chinese sayings rely a lot on shared cultural context, just as ours do, which doesn’t
mean people remember. The connection between the words and the meaning may
have become totally opaque, long before the expression is abandoned. Who’s Jesus?
What five thousand? Anyway, coincidentally, the ante-penultimate episode of
Rainbow Bridge is up: it’s not over til it’s over
Women and animals, hmm…
Sunday, December 10th, 2006
Dark skies. Is it almost chilly? Relatively, with a lot of imagination, is it a wintery
The daphne, inspite of having been ripped in half by a large person falling on it in the
dark at a summer party, is rich in bud, my Lulu Belle has one dishevelled flower and
several nearly open. By the end of the week I’ll have a winter bouquet by my bed, I’ll
be La Dame Aux Camellias coff coff. But as I was saying, fur and gold, women and
animals… It was never horses, not for me, not really. When I was a little child my
alter ego was a grey swan, she was called Greyey, the grey swan (original, huh?).
Fiorinda, very, attentive Bold As Love readers might have noticed, is a horse,
according to Chinese horoscopes; and it suits her. But her totem animal must be a red
deer, for here she is, drifting into snowy ambush, all unaware.
The serial will be finished by the time the Bold As Love site gets its classic front page
back (reconstucted for the whole five books), ie before Xmas. But it won’t disappear,
I have plans for it and meanwhile it’ll still be reachable from this blog.
Bats in St George’s
Friday, December 8th, 2006
thick grey sky in the valley, palewashed bowl over the sea, tough beech leaves bright
on the swampy mulch of sycamore and lime. A dog fox running ahead of me along
the green path to the funeral chapel, grass full of beads of rain
Think I’ll turn out to see this gothicky sounding thing at St George’s…
Oh really? Okay, text me, I’m not sure where St George’s is, are you?
St George’s is a beautiful building up in the far east end of Kemptown, elegant
galleried interior, on the cusp between 18thC grace and neo-goth. I walked so I
wouldn’t miss it, a long way in the blustery dark, luckily monsoon type rain was
taking a break. Full house, well, naturally, having snagged “Gig of the week” in the
Independent, clever girls. Strange support act, which I spent illicitly trying to text PG,
blind as a bat in the dark as I’d been obliged to remove my contact lenses, I can
usually do more than twelve hours, but not this time… Natasha Khan is (says here) a
scion of the Khan squash clan. She has a very good voice, insouciant charm, good
hands, good musicians in her band. They’ve got the look, they’ve got the style, they
seem like another race, elfin and incorruptible.
St George’s is a live Christian church, C of E, full of invitations to dogged goodwill
activities, what an intriguing place for a Christmas rock gig in bleak times, eh. There
was a huge Christmas tree propped against the back wall of the sanctuary, waiting in
the wings for its turn, a king from the crib made a guest appearence for one number.
I’m glad I made the effort. I’d leave the house for these people again, any time.
Which is saying something.
My eyes are still sore. Tomorrow, the AI Greetings Card vigil at the Friend’s Meeting
Place. See you there.
When you see
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006
Sunny and warm. St Nicolas left chocolate in the shoes, as always. Milo has eaten
more parlour palm, bad kitten.
When you see spam business opportunities wearing flowers in their hair, you know
it’s time to revert to chaste white backgrounds and a conservative font. I’m getting
tempted to edit the Castles Made Of Sand pages, pull out all those lurid Heavy Metal
colours, which seemed so appropriate at the time, when I put the Bold As Love site to
bed forever, real soon now. Would that be grave-robbing?
What I’m really looking for. . .
Thursday, November 30th, 2006
breezy and cooler, matte grey skies
What I’m looking for is A Door Into Ocean, Joan Slonczewski, so’s I can continue my
review of the ancients. Unfortunately my loft has reached the point in its cycle when
recataloguing has to be undertaken, just to clear floor space. I can see the Women’s
Press cover in my mind’s eye… It’s here, but I haven’t a chance. The light from the
single bulb only makes shadows wherever I look, and the wind sounds like the
ocean… Red Carpet books, huh. Black hole, more like, and this is another.
Curses! Gabriel told me not to trust Amazon Used&New, & I wouldn’t listen.
Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Weds 29th November
One bust (head and shoulders) of a boy, in unglazed clay, ears are like two small half
moons stuck on the sides of his head, hands (at least, the one pressed to his breast in a
salute of some kind) like bunched squid tentacles. Circa 1994-97. Small dark “amber”
cat (like hell) that I bought in Kracow, spending my per diem slotys. Fluffy rabbit,
formerly white, possibly originally an Easter decoration. Chinese porcelain rabbit,
also white, formerly v.pretty; minus ears. I gave it to Peter for his birthday when he
was twenty one. Carved wooden rabbit. Pewter cat, sleeping, very pretty, a present
from Ruth, my sister in law. Thai Cloisonne enamal covered urn, and offering tray;
miniature, about the same vintage as the cat. Plecs, various. A stalk of withered
heather, from Ashdown. Section of birch bark, without a seam, about 10cm high;
ditto. Small painted duck, provenance unknown. Portugese cockerel bought by
Gabriel in Lisbon, 1998: think it must be cast iron, enamelled in black, red, blue,
white. One minute china flagon, with a pattern of pink roses, picked up on the beach
after the big storm in 1990. Two handled striped vase, glazed. It does not hold water.
Three pay slips. Framed photograph of Gabriel as a toddler, wearing his helicopter
hat. . .
I’m restoring the painted fireplace in the basement (devotees of this blog will recall,
I’m sure, that Gabriel and I had a fire-lighting accident involving this paintwork,
some time ago. All right, it was January, Mozart’s Birthday). And playing Kim’s
game with the refugees. I have long thought I had a word for tiny household gods and
the scum of less-than-nothing that gathers around them: poshlaia, the lint that collects
in society’s navel. I’ve treasured the term since I met it in Jack Womack’s “Let’s Put
The Future Behind Us” (I’m not alone: when I put the word in a search engine, the
first reference that came up was that very book). But now I find I remembered it
wrong. poshlost/poshlaia is derogatory, “made up of banality, vulgarity and sham. .
.spurious beauty, spurious cleverness”. Nah, the china rabbit with no ears is not
spurious, beautiful or clever. It’s just something that lives on the mantelpiece. It’s just
a kind of meerschaum tram.
Tuesday, November 28th, 2006
Rain, but it’s stopped now; settled low cloud. Big Band are playing Lewes tonight, at
All Saints. We’ll be there, of course, but tho’ I don’t really get on with Jazz, Swing is
fine, so it’s not a chore.
The homepage update is done, and it’s posted: that went very smoothly. At least,
phase one is done. Of course there’s a phase two, but it’ll wait for a while. And
another episode of Rainbow Bridge, getting close to the goal now: this is the
Sydenham Strong Box Raid.
Strange, since Richard moved me to this new server, I get spam comments on the old
posts, just one or two; although they’re supposed to be closed. If I can’t stop the leak,
may have to delete the offending articles. No bad thing.
Monday, November 27th, 2006
Monday 27th Nov
Day started dark, clearing to sunshine. Gales over the weekend didn’t really
materialise for us, unless I was asleep… Still evilly, ominously warm, like “Winter”
in South Australia.
Finished the rough of my homepage update, that should go up this week. Including a
taster of Big Cat, a Bold As Love story, which Andy Cox & co are going to publish in
IZ’s 25th anniversary issue. Did I mention, Farah’s Glorifying Terrorism proofs
reached me last week? With a Voltairean intro by Andrew MacKie, even. I wonder
where this is going? Should I prepare to be arrested? Nah, they’ll go after the real
criminals, of whom there seem to be plenty. I got away with the child abuse, inspite of
citizen’s arrest. Think I’ll get away with a little s*** .
Gabriel off to London before dawn for his first two Music College auditions. As it
were the boss fight of this level, but he’s well built up. Good luck, Gabriel. We saw
Pan’s Labyrinth on Saturday, good movie, reminded me v. much of Spirit of the
Beehive; which I think far superior, but it was so long ago.. I liked the special effects
esp the praying mantis fairies. I like praying mantises. Had to be a downbeat ending,
as of course the Guerillas didn’t win, but also rather creepy. Altessa Ofelia
(representing “Spain” I surmise) having remained seduced by fascism, (spot the
monarchism, also the unquestioning obedience to a leader, I just noticed), gets a very
spooky heavenly reward. Ah, but her little brother will live, and be free, and never
know his father’s name.
I could be making up the subtext, but you bring fauns, you bring allegory, sorry.
Safe As Milk*
Friday, November 24th, 2006
dark day, wet and blustery.
What happened to Labour/New Labour’s vision for this country, since 1945? When
did the dream of making people better, of civilisation for all, become a dream of
greedy appetites, and giving the people any poisonous thing they cry for?Answers on
a postcard, but for the sake of romantic drama I think I’d have the bodies buried the
same place Edge Of Darkness put them. Safe as milk, anyone?
*if you never heard of Captain Beefheart and you don’t know what this means, try
these key terms in the search engine of your choice; it was only a little thing, storm in
a teacup: Windscale. 1957
Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
Tues 21st, weather unchanged in the last ten minutes.
Went to see the new Casino Royale last night. Superb, right from the credits (tho’ not
the song). Ah, but it should have been the Riviera, the way it was when I was a little
girl. Should have been a carpet-beater too, only I suppose the filmmakers couldn’t
figure out where le Chiffre would have found such a thing in 2006. Ah, Mr Bond, I
have a surprise for you from my quirky collection of antique cleaning utensils…
Other updates didn’t worry me. Baccarat or poker, all same to me.
I think they’ll do the rest of the Ian Flemings over again, now that they’ve found
Daniel Craig, and an idiom, and a time so like the original times. And a plump, tasty
looking Leiter. Is this stuff the enemy of all I hold dear? Certainly it is, but what do
you suggest I do? Not admire or enjoy anything? Nah, boring.
Can you see Bond as our holy pictures, our repertoire of iconography? Our Nativity
Scenes, our Pietas, our Entombments, our Road to Emmeas, painted over and over by
generations of popular yet revered artists? This saviour, who has no agenda of his
own; who carries out, resistant but always in the end obedient, the commands of an
omniscient, a stern and loving mother. Who is not good, because we cannot perceive
ourselves as good, but whose intrinsically bad actions -superficial, ignorant and
heartless- somehow, mysteriously, “save lives”. Which is just what we wish for
ourselves, for our own greedy luxurious appetites and our own mindless violence…
Hm, been reading too much Gravity’s Rainbow. And here’s the next episode of the
other Rainbow. Eskdale Moor and Scafell, and just to please one of my critics (can’t
please everyone!), an RSPB disclaimer for the invisible wind-turbines. The rockstars
getting restive, like the Beatles in 1966. Taking the harder drugs they vowed they’d
never take. Trying things they maybe should not try...
Three Red Berries
Tuesday, November 21st, 2006
Tues 21st, light cloud, slight chill.
Three red berries on the holly tree, how old is it now? Maybe eight, ten years old?
We’ll be eighty before we’re decking the halls at this rate, but they’ve grown bright, I
feared they were going to be murky orange, as some holly berries naturally are,
looking like the organic, doesn’t-taste-so-nice version.
Did I mention we finally saw The Devil Wears Prada last week? Meryl Streep was
tremendous, the clothes v. nice, the indispensible “Nigel” character indispensible, & I
was not allowed to miss a single Audrey Hepburn ref. Didn’t like the ending. So, ol’
doe-eyes is to renounce cut-throat office politics and do something meaningful that
she can believe in, by becoming a New York journalist???? That’s a Fifties reference
too far. And she’s sacrificing her career for love, whereas her lover is a sous-chef,
those well-known home-bodies, just about to take an obsessive job in another city?
How romantic of her. Not helped by fact that ol’ doe-eyes love interest played by the
same lad as plays that starlet in Entourage, who is paid good money to look insincere,
vapid and fickle. . .
She’s going to get divorced a time or two anyway: she should have stuck with Meryl
Streep & at least set the world on fire.
But he can’t switch it off
Thursday, November 16th, 2006
16th Nov, grey and blustery. Enticing autumn weather, I want to get outdoors but am
chained to my desk
Death’s head mask link from Boing Boing, forwarded to me by an Aoxomoxoa fan.
Check it out.
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
Big chunk of Rainbow Bridge this time. The Lanternbearers is a Rosemary Sutcliff ref
btw. No crypto-political-memoir roman fleuve about English Dreamers would be
complete without a swift round-up of the regrettable but nostalgic Right Wing: check
the list, John Ruskin, William Wordsworth, Arthur Ransome, Eddison (you knew, of
course, that The Worm Ouroboros is set in Wasdale, with excursions to Mercury?).
Morris dancers and a duckrace...
Byron the Bulb
Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
grey weather, like November only much warmer
Byron the bulb! Old pal! I’ve reached the story of Byron the Bulb at last, I’d
completely forgotten it was so near the end.
For the record, Slothrop doesn’t turn into a tree, that was Bob Peck in Edge of
Darkness (and the actor refused to do it…) He becomes a crossroads.
Of course, I knew that.
David Hartwell sends me Kathleen Ann Goonan’s “IN WAR TIMES”. A treat. I’ve
only just started but it’s shaping up to be some kind of Gravity’s Rainbow
neurophysics story, set in December 1941 (so guess what the main event might be).
But not quite the 1941 I know…
Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
Light, colourless sky, cloud, blustery wind
Back in business, just in time for the New Year. Samhain always seems a dismal time
to mark as the turning point, and more so in the slightly threatening warmth of this
October. Maybe that’s the point, or maybe it means something vigorous in old
temperate zone agricultural calendar. On the other hand Eid ul Fitr I was in
Manchester, stunningly beautiful evening, the giant crescent of the new moon in a
peachbloom sky over Harpurhey, sparrow fest in the thorn trees by the pharmacy.
On re-reading Native Tongue (Suzette Haden Elgin) No, it’s no use, I thought it was
dull then, I found it dull again. Not even a period-piece. Allowing for my childish
taste for bright colours, sharp and sour flavours, still can’t see where this book is
going. The linguistics aspect seems anoraky, only the Middle America band of the
USA exists, and Women, by the end of it, have achieved the huge victory of being
sectioned off into all-female ghettos by their grumpy menfolk. Huh?
But must not judge. Strange the way I run into really angry 21st century male sf fan
reactions to femsf classics, as I research this chapter, like future echoes of the reason
why… Get a grip, chaps, it’s been over for twenty years. And you won! (Not only did
you win, but arguably you also got to reconstruct our territory on more acceptable
lines, as magnanimous victors tend to do…) Not entirely changing the subject, thank
you to the blogger (forget name and URL) who spotted that the writer of “The
Fulcrum” (Best SF 23, The Very Best of Sf 2005) was “channelling M. John
Harrison”. Yes, yes, that’s exactly what I was doing. With a touch of Richard
Morgan. Not entirely changing the subject #2, here’s another episode from Rainbow
Bridge. The people whose lives we touch, and we never felt a thing. The way you
suddenly find out something new about things you thought long buried, long burned-
out… Diamonds and Rust.
On Re-reading Sheri Tepper
Sunday, October 1st, 2006
Ist October, thunderstorm
Ginger is out in it, sitting unde a patio chair, watching lightning. She loves storms
On Re-reading Sheri Tepper:
Women’s Liberation is good for the planet. In the so-called Developing World, the
most effective way of reducing the number of children each woman bears is female
literacy. No other contraceptive works so well. In the so-called Developed World,
women’s (economic and civil) liberation is a trojan horse in the heart of capitalism. It
increases the labour pool and more than doubles the consumer appetite, but it sends
the birthrate plummeting. Indeed, women’s liberation seems to indicate that ifall
women only had children if & when they really liked the idea, we’d have a net
problem replacing ourselves, and no worries about paving the world with our teeming
Feminism is on much shakier ground vis a vis saving the world, because feminism
desires the social and cultural change that makes men less “masculine” and makes
women who are economically independent more likely to stay married and get
pregnant (more than once). An epidemic of caring sharing fathers, and what would
happen to the rosy die-back graph in the Russian Fed, Poland, Italy???
On re-reading Mary Gentle
Golden Witchbreed, what a magnificent fantasy; and in 1983 surely groundbreaking
for the tacit, taken-for-granted sexual equality of the humanoid Ortheans. Without a
single comment from the human envoy, tho’ there are hints life on earth is not like so.
What a shame there was never an award for feminist sf. The Tiptree? Nope, that’s for
books about gender: “Exploring and expanding gender roles” . Arguably, ironically,
the kind of book female fans of adventure fantasy and scifi would most prefer to
avoid. Augh! We came to genre, as to the foreign legion, to forget…
Ghosts: Ginger and Milo
Friday, September 29th, 2006
I bet I know why there’s an “insomnia epidemic”. One reason anyway. It’s a wrinkle
in our share of the net rise that was talked about a while ago, and then forgotten. No
egg-frying daylight temperatures, it’s more that the differential between night and day
has collapsed. We’re used to cool nights for sleeping, and we don’t get them.
Ginger and Milo: Tuesday 26th, outside Gabriel’s room. She knows there’s another
cat in the house, she’s being allowed to see him for the first time. Ginger sees a tiny,
skinny-built tabby kitten with huge ears. She stares in troubled amazement.
I’m sure that’s not mine. Can’t be anything to do with me.
They’re messing with my head!
The kitten takes a run at her, they touch noses.
Session closed, quit when you are winning.
Thursday 28th, we progress. Kitten allowed out in the basement, where he races about
while Ginger sits and stares. He eats, she watches carefully. I remember how she used
to love to sit and watch Frank eat. Again, we close the session when the kitten gets
too bold. His idea of a conversational gambit is leaping at the older cat, tiny claws and
Hey! Mrs! Want to play murder???
Ginger is showing no signs of stress. Sleeping in her usual spot by my bed, begging
for cheese, sitting in my jigsaw pieces, all the usual noises. I wish us luck.
Speeding up the pace with the Rainbow Bridge serial now. Two episodes up on my
homepage. One more big chapt222222222222222222222 (that’s Milo, hs mark) after
this, and we’re on the home straight. There’s only one moment really. One point on
which this five-volume story turns, or maybe two. Always coming back, round again.
Did I ever mention that the serial is the director’s cut? I’m re-editing as I go, just a
little bit. All the Bold As Love books except the first were such a race against time,
whole thing such a tour de force. . . The last state of a book can be worse than the
first, writers find it hard to leave well enough alone. But in this case, I know I’m
getting it closer to the bone, sharper at the edge. Every word a wanted word.
Posted in Uncategorized | Edit | Comments Off
Monday, September 25th, 2006
Monday, 25th September
Monsoon weather, clammy between downpours
Diana Hutchison, who wrote asking did I have any more copies of Seven Tales for
sale (the answer is yes I do. I mean to put my “rare” books back up on Amazon used
and new real soon now, but you’re welcome to apply to me direct), reports that she
found an internet article saying how the Bold As Love characters are based on “well-
known people in the real world”. Which real world? Maybe they’re all secretly sf
mavens, disguised as heroic musicians… What an intriguing idea, wish I’d thought of
it. Sadly, she never found the article again, ah well. Joan Haran writes asking do I
have any Deconstructing The Starships. Same answer as above, yes I do have copies
of the paperback, very reasonably priced, apply to the usual email address.
Life begins anew, again. Soon I’ll be updating my homepage, which I have not had
the heart to touch for months, except to refresh the Rainbow Bridge serial, because it
would have meant taking Frank’s name down. But now I will, because Milo joined
the household yesterday. He’s a Bengal/Siamese cross, bit of Ragdoll too, apparently,
making him technically a “Serengeti”, a fantasy breed in the process of being
invented. The Cat Fancy disapproves of the wild animals in the living room idea, and
quite right too. But no actual Savannah cats were used in creating this product, no no.
At the moment he’s just tiny, ticked pale rabbit brown with faint stripes, an alarming
propensity for climbing things and very big ears. Hope we can convince Ginger this is
a good idea…
“Because we don’t know, we get to think of life as limitless…” I’ve been looking at
old diaries (tracing Gabriel’s cv for him, for the monumental task of filling in music
college applications; from which Milo is distracting him). It’s startling to see how
little has changed, through all the changes that seemed momentous, in the tracks that
my life runs on. But however often you keep coming back, round and round the helix,
there will be a time that’s the last time, and so it is with the Few, after Rainbow
Bridge: Weak Become Heroes. The quotation is from The Sheltering Sky, btw, Paul
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Blood and Oil
Sunday, September 24th, 2006
Saturday 23rd September
Clear blue, very warm
here I am in Manchester for the stopthewar demonstration, milling around in Albert
Square in a crowd of the usual suspects, all by myself, vaguely looking for the
Brighton contingent, but there are just too many banners, too many placards,
drummers, dancers: feeling a little disoriented, tell you the truth, because I just went
to see my parents, who have finally moved in with my sister, and I was hoping also to
pay a short visit to the old homestead, which is to be sold. Nah, too late, it’s all over,
the locks have been changed. I saw the pictures from the front room (old prints of
Coniston Old Man, Derwentwater, Brixham Harbour) stacked in my sister’s hall: and
that’s the end of that.
Never mind, some time had to be the last time.
it’s a big crowd, the numbers harder to assess than they would be in London, where
one has a feel for it, but the police are saying 25k and it’s probably at least that. Trust
my fair city, everyone seems mighty pleased with this fact. Even the police look
chuffed. Of course, we know how to do this. We’re having a BIG demo, big as
London, not one of your little wimpy things. A shoulder to shoulder cordon of yellow
jackets and a phalanx of horses guards the fancy hotels; presumably there are some
conference-goers already installed, peeping from behind their net curtains. Tony Tony
Tony, Out Out Out… They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but even Tony
Blair must be beginning to wonder. I neglect to join in. Talk about flogging a dead
horse. Any idea who we might want to be In, In In? I don’t recall seeing Gordon
Brown on the stage at that Hyde Park rally three years ago, nor John Reid, nor
whatisname. Much less trudging down the Mall wiv his little placard on a stick. We
have no friends in the leadership race. How could we? Who let the bombs out? Bush
and Blair, Bush and Blair! I’ll chant to that. Oh, we’re off. Here we go, treading a
circuit around the cordoned-off centre of the city, thousands upon thousands, in this
hallowed ritual. I think of the Whit Walks, which used to be a big deal when I was a
child. Uncles scouted for orange boxes to sit on, the pavements were packed, parents
bought us paper streamers to wave. Today pleasure shoppers flaneuses and flaneurs
(yep, Manchester has flaneurs these days) take a break from foraging in Harvey
Nicks: 21st C affluent cafe society idly watches our progress. And remember,
everyone. At two thirty we’re all going to die…
I died by GMEX, it happened without fuss. Black balloons rose into the blue, like
butterflies escaping this mortal coil. Stewards had to go round coaxing people to get
up again: it was a hot day and we were tired. Troops Out? Okay, I’ll chant to that.
Don’t attack Iran. No replacement for Trident. I’ll chant to both of those. What is the
logic in replacing Trident, pray? Aren’t Weapons of Mass Destruction wrong?
As usual, I’m wishing I felt more comfortable, more at peace with the peace
movement. I don’t like the hard left any better than I ever did, (the people’s right to
plunder the earth and drown it in 4×4s); and I have major trouble with Islam’s global
human rights record (don’t get me started). I think of Fascism and Communism,
squaring up to each other in the thirties, and I get a very miserable feeling. Different
but the same… Will I end up having to support a war that’s rotten at the roots,
because the underdogs have grown fangs and turned into almost supernatural
monsters? A plague upon both your houses (I may have said that before). i don’t want
to be here at all, this whole business is a stupid distraction & the woods are still
But in September 2001 something really terrible happened to the world. The day the
suicide bombers took out the World Trade Towers, I was shocked at the death toll, but
I wasn’t exactlly surprised. It was US foreign policy coming home to roost, weapons
trade policy coming home to roost. Why should the Islamists play nicely? They are
neither dumb nor docile, you know. And despite what you preach, in real life you
have given them every encouragement for these tactics…
Five years on, we all have to take our hats of to those Al Queeda people. The plan to
destroy Western Civilisation is succeeding admirably, oh, they really did a job on
Western Civilisation that day. But those crazy no-good Ragheads had help, cousins.
They’ve had eager, eager assistance, a marriage of true minds, or they’d never have
succeeded. The happy pact was signed without delay, and we’re all going to hell for
I’m one of Amnesty International’s Urgent Action volunteers. That means we write
letters, faxes, emails not to prisoners but to the people who do the locking up. There is
a window (a few days, a few weeks) when you can sometimes save someone’s life.
Stop an illegal detention from turning into another “disappearence”. That’s when I
really feel the difference that the last five years have made. I’m quoting chapter and
verse from the Declaration of Human Rights at the presidents, prime ministers,
foreign ministers, governors. I’m supposed to say, torture is outlawed in all civilised
countries… My own government has never been exactly blameless, througout my AI
career. No one expects “blameless”. “Blameless” is unrealistic. It’s okay, has to be,
for revered principles to be flouted on the quiet. But there’s a tipping point, where
“revered principles” just can’t survive. The whole torture thing, the whole illegal
detention thing, has gone so mass market, so normal, I feel an idiot claiming it is out
The drums can get oppressive, the hip hop star on the weird bicycle was good. Very
few police on the march route, just that phalanx of horses protecting the hotels, and a
more modest cordon around GMEX. Around four thirty, back at Albert Square, I quit
half way through the speeches; before the rush. I know I’ll keep on coming to these
demonstrations, tho’ who the hell we are demonstrating to, and what they are
learning, is a mystery. Did we snag any column inches, any footage on the news? I
dunno, I was on the train home.
Silence is shame. More later.
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Turning the Compost
Monday, September 18th, 2006
warm and clear
More seasonal tasks, we are experts at this one, we are veterans, we’ve tried
everything, inc the one by the back door that used to get raided by the dog next door:
rotten pickled chinese vegetables made it very, very sick, and the time we ambushed a
young rat in the wormery, with a baseball bat… We just generate too much waste. We
will drown in our own midden one of these days, the scraps of mouldy bread and
festering salad will pile higher than the house. The only solution that worked was the
heap at Hartington Terrace, in its old wooden pen. We have no room for such a thing!
The only solution that REALLY works (cf also slugs and snails) is have a bigger
garden. Still, the Green Cone wasn’t too bad, real warmth inside, hardly smelly at all.
Memo to selves, eggshells are banned.
I see the Environmental Melt Down Issue is coming up fast in the media. It might
almost be ahead of Permanent Warfare soon, which will help those who aren’t
actually suffering to forget the warzones. Ah well, at least fewer people, reading the
fairytale version of the global ephiphany years in Bold As Love, should find the story
“unrelievedly dark” or “pessimistic”. Anyway, here’s the latest episode. Render unto
Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and look for the best outcome you can get
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Japanese Siberia, January in Suffolk
Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
Wednesday 13th September
In Rainbow Bridge it’s the tipping point, the reaction begins to change pace.
The Japanese edition of “Siberia” arrived yesterday. What a very pretty & stylish
book, lovely cover. Tthe illustrations of the kits are like Studio Ghibli creatures. Must
write & thank the people who did this.
I like the hedgehog best, but Nivvy is good, looks like he’s dancing.
Snakehead proofs done, tactical bio-politics to finish up, & back to the unbloggable.
AI says email Margaret Beckett about the Control Arms Treaty, and I will although
it’s hopeless as long as USA interests remain intransigent, as they were when refusing
to countenance the regulation of the trade in “small arms” (that includes rocket
launchers btw: coming soon to an urban ghetto near you).
“The most effective help that western Countries could offer Africa, rather than
massive aid programmes, would be to ban the sale of arms to the continent”, says the
report of Dennis McNamara of the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Arms are the heart
of the problem. The street children in Nairobi, Jatum, Monrovia, have pistols in their
pockets, bandoliers on their shoulders. And we of the rich north are the ones who
supplied them, we, the so-called G8…”
Mr MacNamara rebukes me for using the supine term “hopeless”. Never argue your
opponent’s case for them. Be unreasonable! Refuse to accept what’s evidently true,
fly into a tantrum if anyone calls you intransigent. It’s messy, but it seems to work…
Why should the devil have all the best tunes?
If I’m blinded by enthusiasm I’m okay, when I’m cool enough to see that I’ve lost
eight or ten moves ahead, I tend to fold. A poor state of mind for a fighter of the long
defeat. I’d never make a poker player either.
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What the young people are up to #n
Sunday, September 10th, 2006
Warm and clear
Drenching the citrus, debating the compost system, grubbing rotten plums out of the
“lawn”… Seasonal chores, what would we do without them? Slightly less predictably,
we went down to the Gloucester this afternoon to meet the manager of Aylsbury band
Mirno, fan of the Bold As Love books, ended up being extras in a pop video. Thanks
for inviting us, Melissa.
And I feel another flashback coming on.
Monday 14th August: Souvenir buying and “Gourmet” lunch with a stork’s nest, in
Eguisheim, pink-cuteness capital of Alsace; I probably preferred it in the cold and
rain. Colmar, the warmest driest city in France, Unterlinden Museum in the freezing
rain, the hallucinatory Issenheim Retable & more mediaeval masters. I don’t really go
for mediaeval pictures, all those stunted bodies, twisted faces, death agonies,
deprivation and grotesques. It’s like being expected to admire Lowry. But they make
me think of Banksy railing against the art galleries. Actually, these intense,fantastic
images were available to the people. Rich folk paid for them, but they were written in
the the Bible in stone, they were in the churches, and ON the churches. Coincidentally
reading Sheri Tepper’s “Beauty” at this time, feel bound to remark the depraved
decadent Stephen King wd have been right at home in the middle ages, tho’ he’d have
needed different technical skills. Unterlinden a fantastic place, but best bit in whole
museum, Blaschka glass diatoms and jellyfish from 1860, incredible creations. It turns
out the Natural History Museum has some of them, must go and see. A dash to the
Rhine in a cracking thunderstorm. There are no ancient cities on this river, it’s
changed its course too often. These days it’s in a canal at this point, but running fast
as a giant storm drain under purple and magenta cloud. Got lost in the labyrinths of
corn and mini-canals on the way back, lurid colours of green and water.
It’s agreed, we’re quitting Alsace. It’s too cold, too wet. Drive: see how far west we
can get, chasing a patch of blue sky. In Renaucourt, Franche-Comte, at the Fontaine
des Fees, Peter cooked the perfect wild mushroom pasta. In the Loire valley, under
the shadow of the Developed North West, we ate a dreadful takeaway pizza in a
gentle chestnut wood, & were kept awake by the quacking of wild ducks.
Rohan, we walked beside the Brest-Nantes canal.
Carnac, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Hordes of seaside holiday-makers stare at the
fields upon fields sown with rows of stones, now fenced off by UNESCO); lick their
ices, return to the beach. A little further, and you can easily find yourself creeping
alone into a dolmen still buried in its mound, staring up a 7m menhir in a silent grove
of thorns. You think you’ve seen mysterious megaliths in Wiltshire? Carnac is on a
different scale. What the hell was going on here, six thousand years ago? They left no
writing, and no pictures. A military cemetery complex? It’s easy to see why that was a
favoured explanation. But what kind of global war? About the most anyone can say, it
seems, is that there’s no sign of any neolithic community on the same level as the rich
tombs; just ordinary workaday huts. This was a sacred plain. Makes you think of the
workers’ village excavated beside the Valley of the Kings; of Delos. There’s been a
lot of Violet-le-Ducery apparently, alignments helpfully straightened out etc.
Probably doing as much damage as the grave-robbers and the quarry work of the
millenia when nobody cared. But still!
Next day, the rain caught up.
In Finistere the trees and hedges have only a gentle embonpoint toward the east, they
are not driven as they are in our SW. But the “Pays d’Iroise” is pure Craggy Island.
You would swear to God you were in County Cork, except for the names which are
pure Cornwall. Prospeder, St Renan, Tregorff, Lampaul
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Friday, September 8th, 2006
Friady 8th Sept
Warm and clear, but it feels like autumn
The Yamaha C3 is installed, 6′1″ of much piano, cased in ebony poly; it looks very
handsome. It arrived 11.30 or so yesterday. Labour was short. Only took an hour, lot
of horse-blankets, a little more dismantling and three or four trials to get it into our
front room. Damage to paintwork minimal, damage to Mr Peter Shooter’s nerves
rather more. He had sworn to get it into the house for us by taking out the windows
and employing a crane, if this failed. Then I handed over the money, a simple
transaction: slightly amazed that he accepted a cheque of such size, from this raggy-
trousered Bohemian woman. Oh well, he knows where we live. He can always come
round and drop a piano on our heads.
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Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Holdiay snaps #2: Wednesday 9th August, on the road
Temperature is still dropping. Subathing, ha!
Gave both Sedan and Verdun a miss. I warned Peter it would be nothing but
battlefields this itinerary. Empy, empty prairie roads & then suddenly, just as I was
thinking it must be around here somewhere, Valmy! The windmill on the low ridge
has just been rebuilt again, after the storm of 1990; there’s more information about
that feat, than about the day in 1792 when Kellerman turned back the
Austrian/Prussian army; and confirmed the revolution as a political reality. But there’s
his monument, flanked by period guns from Whitworths, Manchester, and approached
by an avenue of spruces, rather sad looking job-lot of little Christmas trees. And
there’s the quotation from Goethe.
We don’t lose all the battles, just nearly all of them. We are the party of the
opposition, tempering the rule of the princes of this world (who can never be
dislodged). We should be content with that. Does the revolution gain anything by
being “confirmed in political reality?” I think not. Being in power is not for us. But
Here began a new epoch of the world
blue butterflies, cornfield stubble, late summer flowers. A swarm of housemartins
spinning and diving around the mill’s naked arms. Thunder at Valmy, Geoffery
Trease. I think I came to history the right way. First the stories (including the Gallic
Wars), then the textbooks; when I was innoculated and knew that there’s always
Down the lane, a huge BP bio-fuels silo
Late in the afternoon we reached Mandre les Quatre Tours. There aren’t any towers,
they were destroyed when the Swedish army came through here, 1631, in the Thirty
Years War. There’s not much of anything really. Meres and water meadows, coppiced
forest. We’re moving through one of the least populated areas of Europe, in the zone
where the memorials say “For the Victims” of the Great War, not “For the children of
France”… The campsite, under the eaves of a forest, seemed spooky at first, but the
swallows in the sanitaires decided us. What delightful company!
the year of 00
Thursday, September 7th, 2006
In August, we came to a decision. The mood of this “global epiphany” has changed.
You see great masses of people -not on the tv, which is controlled, but on webcasts
we pretty much trust- slashing and burning for Gaia, with the same avidity that they
used to follow Big Brother. New housing was being torn down all over our county, by
the official, moderate revolutionaries. How could we justify hanging onto our big,
underused urban property? We put Gabriel’s pianos in store, packed everything of
sentimental value into the loft; and handed our keys to the Council. We took Ginger
with us, and left Frank behind; a hard decision. Three weeks later we were in the
Ardennes. We’d taken advice and skirted around the Developed North West, and
Paris. We’d had difficulty finding fuel, “carte etrangere” doesn’t work at the pumps;
but never been quite stranded.
We knew what we were looking for. Somewhere off the map. When I signed in, the
gardienne of the campsite asked me how long we were staying. I don’t know, I said.
A day or two, maybe more? She was a young woman of about thirty, crop-haired,
coloured tattoos on her arms and shoulders, she somehow looked like an off-duty
soldier. She surveyed me, as if she knew what I was planning. Then let us take it a
night at a time, she said, dryly.
We talk to our son in Barsa, when we can get through. He seems to have taken up
with a Brazilian girl, journalist. That’s good. I hate to think of losing touch, but he’d
be safer in South America. What are you doing?, he asked. How long are you going to
keep this up? I explained that when we’re camping we live very low. Our power
consumption is negligible, compared to the demands of a prosperous light-green
couple in a big old house. When we want two mugs of tea we measure the water, that
sort of thing. And we’ll be getting some compensation for the house. He doesn’t
understand. Maybe I’m glad he doesn’t.The three walls of our bay are trees, ash and
beech and pine: arum berries glowing in the undergrowth, where the robins and the
blackbirds hop. Our roof is the sky. In the barnlike sanitaires swallows are bringing
up their children, we meet them when we go to clean our teeth in the morning,
hunched on the waterpipes. It’s always raining, and chilly already. Occasionally one
of their little cups of clay succumbs to gravity and damp: what a disaster that must be.
I was wrong about the gardienne. We had a meeting, and she told us that the
commune (which employs her) won’t be turning off the water on 15th Sept; and we’ll
still have a power supply, although it will be intermittent, the same as it is for
everyone. Most of us are going to try and stick it out through the winter; and after that
who knows? A step at a time, a step at a time, we move towards a committment we
can’t envisage all at once, a surrender I don’t want to think about just now. Tread
lightly, become a small reduction in the weight the living world can no longer carry.
Beyond the borders of Europe our global allies and our enemies watch us, but nothing
happens. Something wicked has been overthrown: so far that’s all we know. The
Dutch people in the next bay talk about going to Strasbourg. We think they’ll just be
jumping around, helpless on the edge of a dangerously volatile crowd.Same in France
as in England, you’re allowed to keep a car if you have no other dwelling place. At
night the Toyota, parked across our doorless threshold, seems like a silver lion,
couchant; on guard. The air smells of earth and water and crushed bracken. I’m afraid
of what’s going to happen next, but I feel a terrible, terrible burden lifted from me. I
lie and watch the rain streaming, the moon rising; blunt owl wings crossing the stars.
Wrap the football around us #n
Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
Wednesday 6th September,warm and clear, the garden full of gosammer, humming
bird moths, dropping plums
A new year begins. 06-07. Gabriel’s birthday safely passed, too much sticky
chocolate cake in the fridge (Sainsbury’s I’m afraid but give us a break, there was
Pete and Marly’s wedding, there was the Yamaha expo, there was post-camping-
holiday fatigue, there was Lumb Bank)
I’ll watch for the sake of Giggsy, but only if you can promise me that Wales wins,
after a surprisingly lack lustre performance from the Brazilians, same like in the
World Cup. Or at least gets a goal in.
Obviously I watched the game anyway, mildly wondering at this random event. Why
are Wales playing Brazil at White Hart Lane? Wrap the boy-traditions around me, a
refugee in a safe but alien haven, but it’s not a bad doss really. Snakehead proofs,
Tactical Bio-politics, but first some holiday notes. I plan to upload some pictures, but
don’t know if I can be arsed. It’s not a keystroke.
So much catching up
Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
fair and calm, light cloud
So much catching up to do, and a train to catch… I think I’ll start with the next
episode of Rainbow Bridge, a neat, contained little job: and here it is
I don’t believe that anyone is ever going to pay me
I don’t believe in anything except the cold and the equations
Home from the wars, more Rainbow Bridge
Friday, August 4th, 2006
A clear night, stars
1am, Gatwick,in the echoing arrivals hall bug-eyed midnight relatives squeal and run
to hug & here’s Gabriel, back from Benecassim and an extra week in Barsa. He had
an amazing, amazing time, he got sunburned at a waterpark, wrecked his feet moshing
barefoot to Babyshambles. There was Gaudi’s cathedral, there was the zoo, there was
Razzamatazz, there was a fantastic sheet music shop, and a grand piano showroom
where he convinced them to let him practice… No obvious depradations. Did you lose
anything? No, er, except all my socks.
Oh, and I lost my wallet, but I got it back with just the money gone.
Oh, and I lost my watch.
The tent’s okay. I left the sleeping bag behind, it was covered in ketchup.
Oh, and I ditched the airbed, it was useless.
Er, (this in a minor key). And I’m not, er, sure about my money. You couldn’t check
your balance on the ATMs, you see…
You could, however, have written down the sums you extracted, on a piece of paper,
and occasionally added them up, Gabriel. But there you go, he is of his generation,
child of hedonists. And not entirely coincidentally here’s the next episode of Rainbow
Bridge They’ve arrived where all the chickens of our polymorphous unrestraint, our
eternal partytime, have come home to roost…
I have a pretty painted fan. Peter has a Gaudi beer mug. We are well content. It’s cool,
looks like more of that annoying drizzle, and we’re off to Brussels for my niece’s
birthday. Farah Mendlesohn writes inviting me to a symposium on sf criticism next
June (hm!) Lynne Jamneck sends me an interesting post, it’s on her July 26th blog
entry, about Kim Westwood
and I have the latest paradoxa, featuring a conversation with U.K.LeGuin & a stack of
essays on genre which you really ought to get hold of, dear readers; which I think I’ll
take with me to Waterloo
Monday, July 31st, 2006
Cooler, fresher, sadly no real thunderstorms for us, heatwave just fading out.
Saturday night I drank too much coffee, worked until 1am. Last night the last ever
Top of the Pops, for old sakes’ sake. The first time in quite a while that I’ve watched
that nostalgic old countdown, how strange to see 2006 band names on it, and how
nice to get Shakira & Wycliffe (what a great mover she is), as the final number one of
all time. And finished my jigsaw of Brueghel the Elder’s La Vista (collaboration with
Rubens, one of the Five Senses series). What a fantastic picture, how full of meaning
in its bursting compendium. I see it’s in La Prada and I need to go and see it there
Ha. How long is “soon”?
Just one swift, tossing around very high up in the veils of grey. The sun a white pearl
through scudding spindrift, the sycamore branches tossing, Val and Dave’s sumac
rather gaunt (they’ve been pruning, sigh). Sunbathing is uncomfortable and tiring,
besides being allegedly bad for your health. I lie on my back in the garden, bathed in
cool air and flouting custom, wonder why more people don’t do this instead?
The Water Margin
Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
Still warm, bit of an overcast
The next episode of Rainbow Bridge is up on infinityplus, and many thanks to Keith
Brooke for hosting The Water Margin.
Hazy July days, pervasive warmth, down to the sea for a dip at five, quiet meals on
the patio at moth-time, and the feeling grows that this how summer ought to be. Silver
linings: if you’ve been convinced, for a long time, that the human world is frying
itself alive, you’re not overly alarmed by a little heatwave.
Stopped for bobbins*, at four I give up pretending to work and we take the train to
Glynde, to stroll back over Mount Caburn to Lewes. Dusty chalk path through the
mown hay-stubble, dotted with shorn sheep, an exhausted third generation of flowers
meagrely struggling back after being scythed (not really, a machine does it), larks
singing, dusty brambles and glimmering enchanter’s nightshade, already in fruit. Off
the pasture, through the gate to the hill fort site, the flowers are still rampant: clovers
and wild marjoram, viper’s bugloss, melilot, forests of wild parsley and fennel, field
scabious, rampion (ha! and complete with bumblebees, is that still normal?, have to
keep reminding selves, we are a protected enclave*) fizzing with butterflies. Painted
ladies, wood browns, marble whites, cinnabar moths, a charcoal-winged peacock with
that arrogant upturned snout. Para-gliders on the rounded headland, patiently trying to
catch a breeze, and there’s the winding Ouse, the last toasted rampart, the silver sea.
Could stay here forever, never get tired of gazing into the blue vault of air and over
the golden downs, as if nothing had ever gone wrong, as if our country wasn’t
shamefully complicit in a massacre, in a fxxing cascade of bloody, useless, hateful
massacres now, and nothing, nothing we can do…
But we walk on, down into the bottom up to the golfcourse and down the banked lane
(tiny late July harebells, everything’s shrinking in the heat).To Harvey’s brewery tap,
by the docks of the Ouse, and Olympia Gold. There’s that cat belonging to a friend of
Peter’s out of the water. He’s a proper sailor, takes it to France and back alone, now
he’s selling it, don’t know why. And thence to the station, where due to a succession
of unfortunate incidents, carefully enumerated over the PA every five minutes, we
have to wait three quarters of an hour for a train. Which is not the end of the world.
Ah well, summer.
*Also, mediafolk don’t necessarily let the truth get in the way of a good scare story.
As in, quite a few English trees, such as oak and beech, keep hold of their dead leaves
until midwinter, unless a storm strips them. That’s not global warming, they’ve been
doing it forever.
*stopped for bobbins? Lancashire expression, meaning I can’t do any more until I get
more parts sent down the line
Wednesday, July 19th, 2006
Too darn hot. No rainwater left, topped up the pool with tapwater, for the first time
“keying any transmitter is an invitation to instant paranoia. There springs into
existence an antenna pattern, thousands of square kilometres full of enemies out in
their own night encampments in the Zone,faceless,monitoring...”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow, Ch 3 p 328 (Picador)
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Lovely Weather For Swifts
Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
Hot and clear, heatwave for us tempered a little by the seabreeze
One, two, three four…
WHY CAn’T You???
thirteenfourteen, er, ziptotwenty, er…
The highest count I’ve managed to reach is twenty, but they keep zipping around so
much. Strangely (not) the slight of herring gulls spiralling on the updrafts is not at all
so charming. Last week I was in the Jubilee library when a mottled, flatfoot young ‘un
wandered into the cool foyer: it’s that time of year, they are nearly fledged. Tourists
burst into cooing, and flurries of protective gestures. Locals, to protect the reputation
of our city, restrained themselves from beating the brute to death like a roach…
Time out, lunchbreak, to stare at the sky (sky-gazing yoga, my favourite summer
occupation) and back to my currently non-bloggable activities. The next episode of
Rainbow Bridge is going up on infinityplus, I’ll tell you when it’s there. Meanwhile,
in the middle distance, there beckons an Aleutian schooner called The Spirit Of
Eighty Nine; carrying a hopeful but ill-omened embassy to the planet codenamed
Seven Tales And A Fable
Friday, July 7th, 2006
cool, misty conditions persisting but feels as if it will burn off
Rare opportunity, massively undervalued stock, immediately I thought of you… Steve
Pasechnik’s just sent me a shipment of Seven Tales And A Fable, (two world fantasy
awards 1996 remember) I’ve put some on sale, likewise some signed copies of the
Midnight Lamp paperback. They’ll be up there until 1st August. Of course you can
also apply to me direct, in which case I’ll deliver internationally. I’ll accept dollar
checks, euros, BPS, sorry no credit cards.
Last night, the leaver’s concert at BHASVIC, & the last time I’ll be in that panelled
hall, with the rather fine inspiring C20 murals of war and work (Armada fails,
Parliamentarians meet Sussex gunfounders, Battle of Britain…) And the gilded lists
of the dead. Gabriel and James played four-hand ragtime, Gabriel played his scherzo,
the Tamla Motown tribute singer had a proper belter of a voice. Today he’s off to
There, he’s gone, and in a sense he’s never coming back.
With the beanflowers boon
And the blackbirds tune
And May, and June
Squirrel face-off, Russian offensive
Thursday, July 6th, 2006
Cool, sea wrack still hanging on at mid-morning
Hot sun, steady rain (the good sort of rain, none of your useless runoff downpours)
and now the mist again. A squirrel climbed the trellis, watched by Cosmic, next-
door’s rather strange cat, popped through and suddenly noticed me, quietly leaning on
the wooden rail surveying the rambling poppies and the swelling plums, inches from
his cocky little face. Augh, some crappy hulking wildlife between me and the
catfood… Indignant exclamation, squirrel takes himself off crossly down the steps.
Cosmic offers no threat: he’s been bitten by a squirrel before now, and nor does any
human. I could have the squirrels eating out of my hand, I know. I think they eat
enough already. Russians attack blogs! It seems there’s a lot of very dedicated
spammers over there among the feds, actually keying in user registrations. So now it’s
going to be even harder for decent folk to comment on this blog, and no harm to me
as I’m not bothered about being interactive, but a real pain to real bloggers. What if I
emailed them, saying Look, idiots, I have comment moderation, who the hell doesn’t?
You are NEVER going to get anywhere with this? But what would I know? Maybe
the internet is swimming with happy bloggers who do not mind being used as a link
platform, or even think its a compliment. There are, legend has it, people who
welcome cold calls…
Laura Thomas writes apologising for not announcing “Imagining Albion”, the radio
show. Don’t worry Laura. I do not like the sound of my own voice, an’ I don’t
remember what I said in the interview. I wish your prog well, but what I did was
Radio 4 property, to do with as you people willed… Sophie Masson writes that she’s
coming over from Oz in October to promote her new kiddies fantasy (the Thomas
Trew series), and she’s just finished her first graphic novel, a childhood dream
fulfilled. Must get more details of that. Peter Wong asks if Bryan Talbot is ever going
to do a Bold As Love graphic novel (don’t think so!), Nick Breeze Wood writes from
West Wales, offering Shamanic greetings; Keef says he’ll do an extract and Jeff
Vandermeer invites me to walk the plank. Yes, I’ve been announcing my web
handicraft, I’ll finish the rounds today. It’s like Christmas cards, a chance to say hi
And here’s the next Rainbow Bridge episode. Don’t know what gaspipes are, exactly,
in this context? That’s because you are too young. Think of what rifle barrels might
resemble. I know it sounds strange, but gun runners used to have to lie about it, see.
The previous episodes are still available by the way, links scattered artistically
through this blog. A proper free download will be available when I get round to it.
The next installment might appear on infinity plus, but I’ll link it… and that’s
probably going to be RB signed off for the summer, we’ll see.
Monday, June 26th, 2006
Cool, heavy cloud
I don’t think it’s going to rain. It looks to me like one of those sullen, dry, grey skies.
In the early morning, Ginger comes and sneaks under my hand by the pool (which I
topped up yesterday, dutifully using a bucket, from the rainwater butt). She’s after the
floating fishfood pellets (you’d better not DARE touch my fish, Ginger), which she
scoops out with a paw, having failed to scarf them up with mouth alone. Cat version
of cheating at bobbing for apples… There’s a large quantity of ticked, mousey and
chocolate coloured cat hair in a trail up the garden, I suddenly notice. It has the fluffy
Tonkinese undercoat, has to be Ginger’s. I wonder what happened. I think Lyra must
have beaten her up. No blood, which is fortunate: to match this amount of flown fur,
Ginge would be needing a transfusion. But it’s probably like babysick, looks more
than it is.
Favourable comment on Bold As Love from the USA (thank you kindly, sir) leads me
to investigate the availability over there. My goodness, how expensive my book is! A
thing of beauty, but how’s that going to look, when punters compare the
“secondhand” prices for the UK paperback on amazon used & new? I wonder if I can
do anything about this… But it would be immoral, I know, to interfere with that
invisible hand. No need to worry, the public will always, instinctively turn their backs
on unfair practice. Hallelujah.
Reading: The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold. I liked this a lot, a real lot to start with.
It’s not dark or spiky enough for David Lynch or Judy Blume (cited on back cover),
reminded me more of Sam Mendes’ American Beauty: same suburbia-grows-its-
ownbrand-spirituality thing. But it’s a book of one idea, and the last conceit, which
involves dead girl temporarily borrowing body of lesbian friend, struck me as a bit
sickly. Gravity’s Rainbow, over-ripe as ever, much better in large chunks; and
Chateaubriand. I’m in no hurry to finish the last volume of his memoirs; this has been
a long friendship. He’s in Carlsbad now, 1833, trying and failing to get her family to
recognise the poor Duchesse de Berry’s clandestine marriage to an Italian prince
(They couldn’t make it up #n: how very much like an episode in the Count of Monte
Cristo!) Must reread Attala. Also Sheri Tepper, for an essay Mark may commission.
Interesting retrospective. I really like The Enigma Score, which I never heard of
before. The latest The Companions, is typical entertaining late-Tepper, but caveat,
you may need to really like dogs.
Watching: Finished the first series of “LOST” last night, which we’d missed, fearing
it was stupid. We love it, even Peter loves it. It’s a Mystery Play for our times. What a
great invention tv on demand is. Will Gabriel & I ever finish watching Desperate
Housewives 2 ? Only for completism. The baby-farming is plain nasty, Susan just
gets more and more annoying, etc. A one-series success. And the football, perforce.
What’s wrong with the English? They don’t even get into any good punch-ups,tho’
that Russian ref was to blame in the fun fest last night. It’s always the teacher’s fault.
Kicking a ball in the right direction is not enough. There can be fire, spirit poetry.
There’s Joe Cole, there’s little flurries of life, but basically the English are leaden.
Amnesty International has achieved its million faces, but the hate mail the UN is
getting from the US gun lobby is, I fear, a more telling prediction for the treaty to
control illegal small arms trade… Little rescued Parade roses are covered in blood red
blossom, my one success. Vegetable patch is dead as a duck, Peter’s refurbished room
is looking very elegant indeed & here’s the latest episode of Rainbow Bridge: the dark
foetid rivers beckon, it’s Coppola time.
Monday, June 19th, 2006
The weather remains changeable, yesterday warm (23-25C) and gently humid, today a
sea wrack and a chill, restless breeze. Just drove Gabriel to his Maths FP1 paper, as
his bike is dead until we can find the pump adapter.
We went walking, over in the west, where the great estates are, the Downs are still
thickly wooded, and beautiful horses graze in velvet fields. Stubbs group of polo-pony
mares and foals, chestnut and bay; spreading meres in damp woods, yellow waterlilies
putting up periscopes of flower buds, scolding wrens, ragged robins, two kinds of
woodpecker. Dog rose tumbling in the branches of a massive oak, violet flowering
rhododendron thickets, pine trees on the heath…
OOh! Look Look A pine marten has leapt from a log!
No, Gwyneth, that was a squirrel.
Drat, he’s right.
This is the perfection of English summer, and the rain, the water in the air, is the
secret of it. They say this April and May was the sweetest spring for years, I missed it.
Anyway, the Rainbow Bridge Build is up, as of about 10.30pm last night. There are a
couple of hitches (which I’ve just spotted) but it’s finished.
Now to choose a new domain name. What shall it be? There are three ways you can
go, assuming you’re not constrained by business purposes to look for a Google-
ranking type word for “Paper Company In Slough” that hasn’t been taken yet. You
can make something up, (like, er, gorbrostithat); you can choose a quirky phrase or
expression from the public domain, (like, er, bodhisattva) that means something to
you. Or you can use something uniquely personal; if you have one of those. I don’t
like getting personal, and I have a very common name. I favour the second route, but
it’s more difficult now. When I was starting out I had no company, and indeed I
“bought” a whole rack of boldaslove names, the rest of which I allowed to lapse once
we’d picked on co.uk. Silly of me, it didn’t cross my mind they might be worth
money… Nowadays it’s rather unlikely that you’ll think of a stylish, interesting
common property pd title that hasn’t already appealed to plenty of other people. So
then you have to decide whether you like the rest of the cadre… Hm. Needs thought,
not to mention idle surfing.
The Tale of Genji finished, one more time. Gravity’s Rainbow returns to my bedside.
For years I’ve been saying that all modern sf ideas, certainly all my ideas, come from
this book, and for years I’ve been wondering, is that really true? At all? (it’s a hazard:
once I’ve expressed an opinion or made a statement, I immediately start thinking of
that statement as fiction). But here I am again (last time I read it was 1999-2000),
having waded through the bananas and the first episode of sh*t, have already groaned
at the versicals and the lubricous child-sex, I’m coming to the ideas that leap out at
me, startled recognition, oh yes, I do know you. Yes, this meant so much to me, and it
Imipolex, Mba Kayere, Oneirine…
(tho’ in fact the Pynchon derived dream drug is in White Queen, not Bold As Love)
Lukundoo, what about Lukundoo? Surprisingly, there’s nobody using Lukundoo for
anything, far as I can see the only hits are to the E.L.White story itself. Nah, I’m not
really a horror writer, and I’m not really a Pynchon or a Genji buff either. It would be
Thursday, June 15th, 2006
Humid, cloudy and warm
Aha, so that’s what all this annoying “Blocked content” nonsense is about, on the
other browser. Microsoft is fighting a patent battle with some chancers who’ve
decided to claim they invented embedded content. And why not, they’ll snag billions
of dollars. They also stand to destroy the browser concept and maybe the world wide
web (US), but that’s the profit principle for you. What’s the quote about the engineer
hoist with his own petard?
The Rainbow Bridge serial has moved, current episode is on the boldaslove site, here
But it’s going back to my homepage, reason being, publishing there is a keystroke,
whereas getting onto ruled.org is very secure and cunning.
Have eaten giant cookie (sugar content bad for teeth, good for dental injections); am
about to get the root canal punished.
The freedom of the rose
Tuesday, June 13th, 2006
Heavy rain in the early hours, hot and clear day beginning
Spent HOURS last night trying to source a rose tree. Scouring fairytale books, nursery
catalogues, old photo albums. The arch of crimson rambler I snapped in Washington
DC, just around this time five years ago, looks good but WON’T take shape in
photoshop, it’s just intrinsically wrong for the cameo appearence I have planned… I’ll
use the dogrose bush in Flora Britannica, two birds with one stone, the book deserves
a ref anyway. The rain is good, love the rain, but we go out of the back door in the
morning, and the carnage is awful, awful. Can’t look. Now if only snails and slugs
were edible, so we could pick them like blackberries. That would be a useful gene-
mod. Either that, or why can’t I breed hedgehogs? I would make a good hedgehog
Rainbow Bridge Site Up
Monday, June 12th, 2006
grey morning quickly clearing, very warm
I spent most of yesterday in the garden, lying on Peter’s Greek linen throw, reading
Furet’s “Revolutionary France”; pulling out sheaves of grey and dusty exhausted
forgetmenots, killing snails; watering painstakingly, plant by plant, the seedlings that
yet survive from my broadcast annuals. Bemoaning the state of my potatoes and
beans, all gnawed to bits. Listening to the constant cheery racket of a gang of
sparrows. They probably drive the other, more reticent, garden birds nuts.
Go back to the pavements where you belong, street-urchins!
Later, at night, I’m wandering through the dark house, which seems all echoey and
cavernous just because one room is stripped. Gabriel’s in the basement muttering
about energy packets, photons, electron shells. Peter’s in the empty cave, searching
for his latest version of “sluice gate”, misplaced in the flash files. The yellow full
moon rises, looking very beautiful. I’m supposed to rest but can’t settle.
Reading about Ann Coulter (spread for paint drips) makes me think, liberating women
is a mug’s game. It’s like sending aid to Africa. The cause is just, the need is great,
but practically everything you struggled to give to the poor and brave goes straight
into the pockets of the ruthless gangsters who have risen, inevitably, to the top rungs
of the deprived world…
But anyway, last night, last thing, the Rainbow Bridge site went up, bugs and all. The
usual link will take you to the rough cut front end, this one leads to the chapter pages.
It’ll all be finished, fixed, polished as far as we are able, hopefully during this week.
One More Indestructible Rose
Sunday, June 4th, 2006
Pentecost, 4th June
Weather yesterday, beautiful. Fine haul of big juicy field mushrooms from the hill
above Southease Bridge. We sat for a while to watch the Ouse, discussing how to
capture that effect of light, the incoming tide. Blue layer over brown, bars of light,
and a little pied wagtail chick came out from a nest concealed in the swing bridge
timbers to be fed. It stayed out there when the parent flew off, cheeping, scurrying
about perilously above the water, and madly wagging its little rump as if it already
had a grown up tail. Don’t you dare fall in, little bird, or I know I’m going to have to
go in after you… White egrets, herons, innumerable swans.
Didn’t notice the weather today, too busy sanding, scrubbing, painting Peter’s room,
white like before. And what on earth do they do to those Hay Festival roses? I think I
probably wouldn’t like to know, but you have to respect a flower that can take such
punishment…my journey home in tatters after one cancelled train, up stairs, over
bridges, me in my vintage Laura Ashley and sheer tights (!), ridiculously burdened,
books, bags, free case of cava in an improvised sarong sling; the rose between my
teeth. On the slow train from Worcester to Oxford I crouched among my bundles,
imagining scenarios for this dissolute hooray I was impersonating…chicklit! I bet I
could do chicklit!, and the queen of English landscapes drifted gently by, buttercups
and sorrel in the meadows, all the may in abundant flower, clotted shoals of purest
And that rose is sitting up and taking notice now, amazing.
Women in Science: “Life” at the Book Fest
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
31st May, cool and sunny
To Hay on Wye today, for the panel on Women In Science tomorrow (4pm 1st June,
Review Studio). Just realised the prep I’ve done has been on the “women in science”
aspect, augh, sod’s law, I’ll get asked something about the book & I’ll have forgotten
the important thing that happened in chapter seven, or mislaid a character’s name…
Must check it over on the train.
haha, our invitation to the great Kilworth bbq! Bollywood, what a good idea, sf
grandees formation dancing in gold dhotis, can’t wait.
Tuesday, May 30th, 2006
cool, with glimpses of warm sun, doomy dark clouds
Eight holly berries have set
No pears at all
Plums beyond counting
Ginger has come to fetch me twice this afternoon, she leads me around Peter’s room,
meowing, distressed at all the puzzling changes in her life, grand piano preparations
and the temporary turmoil left by a Bank Holiday semi-outdoor bbq. Two floors
down, Gabriel plays Debussy. Gabriel! Knock that off a minute and move the
furniture back in place, Ginger’s having a nervous breakdown. And thousands of
miles away Yogya is in tatters, the plain of Prambanan littered with carved fallen
stone again. It’s more than twenty years since I was there last, Mama and her warung
must have been long, long gone; and the ice cream parlour beyond the railway tracks,
and the silversmiths who dreamed of coming to Brighton, and the smiling staff of the
Hotel Indonesia, and the kind man who bought us banana pancakes one night, which
we ate on a doorstep in the paraffin-lamp dark. It still felt connected, like this was an
earthquake hurting me & mine. But this is irrational, even rather creepy. Not my
earthquake. Earthquake belong to people crying, people sleeping under cardboard,
Swift reply from Gardner and Jonathan approving Tiamaat; that’s good. Saw Brick
last Thursday: Gabriel thought it was fantastic. P& I thought it was good, very true to
the conventions, we like to see the young people respecting tradition (though a little
voice deep inside kept whispering, Harry Potter and the S**g Brick of Doom). Dear
Reader, (or even readers, but I don’t count on it) you are probably wondering by now
why the Rainbow Bridge extracts aren’t going up on the BoldAsLove site. This is
because we have ftp problems. They will be solved, however, before I’ve fought my
scrapbook items into order. Peter’s sorted out my position visavis Dreamweaver, but
the mess remains. Anyway, here’s the latest clip: Christmas Eve
Google sent me here. . .
Friday, May 26th, 2006
May 26th, rain, cool and misty
Rainbow Bridge Site bites back. Google sent me here when I tabbed “God must be a
Muscovite”, looking for serendipitous references for the Chopin feature, I haven’t an
idea why. Oddblogb’god I’m flailing at random, I am in such a knot with
Dreamweaver, it’s just overloaded and refusing to play, I’m not going to get anything
done, my room is floored with papers, open books, memorabilia waiting to be
scanned, proofs, diagrams, all going nowhere.
However, my gumboil is much better.
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When Good Root Canals Go Bad
Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
Breezy, sun between clouds, still cold.
They tell me the Ice Saints effect is caused by something called the North Atlantic
Index, part of that thermohaline circulation you have heard about. Kind of an English
Bank Holiday El Nino sort of thing. It’s rather strong this year.
I started whining about my gumboil the night we went to see The Last Ballade. I’ve
been hoping it would go away. Looks like a mouth ulcer, left upper premolars, if
you’re interested. But I know it isn’t, it’s that root canal done by previous dentist (on
whom be peace), which didn’t quite work. Last time it flared up Mr Manoochehiriad
almost got me to agree to let him see to it. Can you save the tooth? I whimpered,
trembling. There’s a fifty fifty chance, he said. Visions of shell exploding under the
drill, him digging out shards from bloody pit. . . Couldn’t stand the heckling from
Gabriel and Peter anymore, got myself an appointment on 5th June. I’ll feed myself
on ibuprofen. Maybe it’ll go away.
A levels start today. GOOD LUCK in your exams Gabriel!
& all the rest of you kids, too.
I see the little fuss about the Tiptree longlist has lead to some discussion of that
award. I’m with Jeff Vandermeer, it’s become an embarrassment. Trouble is, the
number of c.21 sf folk, including the Wiscon hordes, interested the tough thinking of
sexual politics is really tiny. Their eyes glaze over. (My eyes glaze over too, different
reason) Whereas, on the other hand kinky sex! Inner Fandom and kinky sex, need I
say more? Hey, hey, looking for some sleeze? Try the Tip! It’s a shame. But I don’t
see any way around the problem, really. Free speech & all that.
Sunday, May 21st, 2006
Cold and stormy
Here’s the latest extract from Rainbow Bridge. Ax meets the Chinese
Dismantling Peter’s room. A trip to good old B&Q, Peter’s favourite store. Why no
grey gloss? Why is grey gloss a special rare choice you have to ask the computer to
invent for you? Surely it used to be a normal colour. Buy a stepladder, (to replace the
rotty old wooden one, finally chopped up for kindling after near-disaster incident)
empty the bookcases, sort through the contents of the ugly filing cabinet which is
definitely on its way to the YMCA. Strange choice of things to keep, things to
discard. Old photographs, crumpled and lost for twenty years. A tiny fake-fur covered
address book, in which one eight year old boy has written another eight year old boy’s
address, and no more. A pack of playing cards, worn and greasy from hours of
playing gin rummy at West African bus stations. A slit-eyed mask made of mud and
set with cowries and german coins… I wonder why c.21 scientists reason that the
Neanderthals “believed in an after life” because they buried the touching little
treasures of a life with the dead; like putting a favourite soft toy in the bed with the
sleeping child? They aren’t using their common sense. Our rituals were never
imposed from above by some priestly caste, religion was not invented by some clever-
clogs to serve the needs of a more complex society. These things are the needs of
society, these behaviours rise from within, natural as sleeping, eating, seeking shelter.
I’ll bet sixth order intentionality, reflective consciousness itself, came later, and all the
cloud-capped towers of metaphysics followed. You don’t have to be conscious to
suffer remorse, or regret, or to mourn.
This week in May has been typically, not reliably but typically, cold and stormy since
1752 (since we last updated our calendar here ie). I wonder what does that tell us?
(Nothing about relative temperature, mind, only weather systems). Even stranger if
“the ice saints” date back to mediaeval times, but I don’t know about that.
Wednesday, May 17th, 2006
Cold and Mist
I might have to move my citrus tree back to the bathroom, or it will die of gloom in
the basement, antechamber of its summer home outdoors. But bring on the rain, bring
on the rain. The house is in flux, Peter’s room all over the place, on its way to
becoming the grand piano practice room. Ginger wanders, refinding old toys. The
Gardner Dozois story, on revision, comes apart in my hands. I have to relate these
people to something, or I can’t think. Damn it, I’m going to have to work out a time
line, a Silmarillion, how absurd.
In a comfortless Maytime we pin our hopes on seven pm, get the beers in, pull the
bunker blankets around us. Where is our chronicler?, the one who knew how we live.
Mike Skinner where are you now?
It would have been more fun if Barca had lost, but there you go, it’s the ritual that
counts. As long as we can win something, sometimes, please. Not even often, not
asking for the moon, but now and then. . . Please?
Monday, May 15th, 2006
15th May, cold and grey
The serial of Rainbow Bridge continues: slight return
The prologue and catch-up can be found on this blog, March 12th, March 23rd, April
Apologies: my spam filter became too clogged, comments will now require log in.
To London last week, up at dawn to get the bus: to lobby parliament over the
International Arms Trade Treaty… The arms dealing industry is out of control, small
arms (a generous category) trade in particular, and it isn’t just arming six year old
boys in Central Africa, the guns END UP HERE. On our streets, in our cities. If you
want to be counted as feeling this is a bad idea, sign up here.
And passed through the security baffles and the portakabin search facility at St
Stephen’s entrance for the first time. How easily we get used to these downward
tumbles. Once I was so privileged, now I’m poor and often insulted: we have joined
the majority. Ah well, I can’t really remember being rich anyway. Joining Amnesty
International for one of these actions is a little like visiting fairyland. We don’t
mention the elephants in the room. (Eg, IRAQ. Eg, the whole thing is useless without
China and Russia and the US, and how are you going to get China and Russia to sign
up for an International Arms Control Treaty (that’s even sign, never mind enforce any
regulations), if the USA won’t do it. Which of course they won’t. Never, nohow). ..
But you have to like the good people who keep trying, even if the gold they give you
turns to dry leaves in your pocket by the time you get home.
Then it was our Brighton Festival weekend, five events in three days (not forgetting
the Brighton and Hove Big Band busking outside the Haha! Bar. Dashing young
keyboard player rather indignant that we sat and had a beer on the terasse, instead of
standing up front…) I think the best was the Chopin, The Last Ballade, Michael Lunts
one man show in the Buddhist Centre garret. We take our hats off to someone who
can play Chopin and talk (no, more than talk, can act), at the same time. Great music,
very sad story, even if you know the other side… But I don’t know, the Budapest
Symphony Orchestra were cracking, the Bartok,(Miraculous Mandarin) worth the
price of admission alone. Groupe F, “The Lightplayers” in Preston Park, was not as
majestic as the free show they did two years ago, but it was pretty amazing. We were
right up front, a company sparsely scattered on picnic rugs when darkness fell.
Absorbed by the sheer spectacle (This is the stuff Leonardo da Vinci really cared
about, you know), we didn’t notice what was going on around us. At length, when it
was time to go, good grief what a SEA of people. On and on, forever, in the dark,
quietly moving, under the trees, over the lawns.
Yesterday we went into King Death’s Garden, and snipped a spray of male holly
flowers. A touch of in vivo fertilisation, dusting pollen grains onto the female flowers
on Siang’s little tree, blunt green matchhead ovaries. Maybe we’ll get berries.
Lying awake, I listen to birdsong in the early morning. The thrush north of the
Crescent isn’t singing this year, but at 4.30 on Friday, is that by any chance a
Monday, April 17th, 2006
Sunday 16th April, low cloud, all the spring flowers
Death is heartwood
the dense centre of the soul
where no laughing blood leaps
and no nerves thrill
The people we love are joined to it
one by one
And fill its silence with joy remembered
And help us to stand tall
And make us strong
There’ll be no blogging for a while, I’m too sad. Doria, Paul, I’ll email you
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Friday, April 7th, 2006
April 7th, grey and mild
Further to my last: just about this time of year in 1871, or a little earlier, the French
government forces surrendered. The Franco-Prussian War had been an utter disaster,
and it served the French right. Everyone in Europe had told them they would get
pasted, everyone had told them, that Bismark feller is NOT kidding, Prussia is an
armed camp and where’s your famous army right now? Dancing the cancan, eh? But
they wouldn’t listen. So, anyway, defeat came and the Parisians were incensed.
They’d just endured a 200 days siege, and for what? For nothing? Over their dead
They refused to surrender, the Reds took over, and this became the Paris Commune.
Rimbaud, aged sixteen, ran away from home to join them (sort of, the dates don’t
really fit). Patti Smith wrote a song about it. And eventually (from the sublime to the
ridiculous, you may say) I wrote about Crisis Europe and a desperate attempt to build
Utopia in the middle of a nation-sized car crash, called “Bold As Love”
Everyone at the time thought they were insane and disgusting and atavistic, a bunch
of mediaeval insurgents, eating cats and inventing mad concepts like “from each
according to their capacities, to each according to their needs”*. Except Matthew
Arnold, who said “the Paris convulsion is an explosion of that fixed resolve of the
working class to count for something and live, which is destined to make itself felt in
the coming time…” In their own eyes they were a verloren hoop, as the Dutch say, a
lost troop, a hat on a stick for International Socialism. Nobody came to their aid. Karl
Marx fumed about the mistakes they were making (their proud financial probity in
dealing with the great banker Lafitte, makes heartbreaking reading). But he stayed in
London. . . In short, the Commune was a disaster. Bismark and Prussia had a field day
with the issue, and in the end the French government forces came in and slaughtered
them all. Men women and children, thousands and thousands of their own citizens.
And for no reason. The battle was won, the resistance was over. Makes you think,
doesn’t it, looking at Paris now.
Makes you think. Makes you think twice about taking up verloren hoop politics. And
then maybe do it all the same.
Anyway, where was I. My week: 13:Tzameti, excellent film. The Three Burials of
whatsisname, on the other hand, I found rather crass. Finished Big Cat, went to a great
concert, London Philharmonic at the Dome. And here’s Ashdown continued: the third
episode of Rainbow Bridge. Warning, it’s long, because I haven’t time to make it
reflections on the Commune from: Paris Babylon, Rupert Christansen.
*I do think this is nuts, by the way. Jennifer Aniston has needs. Big Brother
celebrities have needs, where do we draw the line? Hedonism is a difficult creed.
Ovingdean Tea Ceremony
Wednesday, April 5th, 2006
April weather, blue sky, bright wind, transparent indigo cloud
A Sunday walk: up to the Racecourse, across the green turf, down through the
suburban fields, pony stables, to Ovingdean, where we couldn’t get into eleventh
century St Wulfstans, so sat on a bench in the pretty (kept that way by ferocious
churchwarden notices) graveyard like bookends, old friends. Watched a pair of
kestrels playing in the filigree of bare branches, swelling buds subtly changing the
profile against the sky, beech and lime. Discussed what we’re going to do about
1. Renew passports before the cutoff date, obviously
2. Resist, of course. But how far will we go? Get arrested, go to jail, resign ourselves
to losing all social services? No doctor, no vote etc?
We don’t know. But long-haul travel is over (finally killed for us by aviation fuel
issue), dance culture is over, we’re too old for clubbing. Got to do something with our
time. Maybe verloren hoop politics is the next adventure.
It won’t happen, says Peter. It’ll be like Poll Tax, it just won’t work. Ah, but Poll Tax
was a long time ago, so much has changed since then, so many tipping points passed.
Back from Rottingdean by the undercliff walk, wonderful seas. At the point break, the
waves hit the undercurve of the new seawall and race along it, shooting up in white,
brilliant, travelling fountains, showering thrilled strollers with glitter and dazzle. Salt
on our faces, tea and cake at the Ovingdean kiosk, what a great institution.
I have hyacinths by my bed now, fugitive scent, many-coloured stars, shell pink, pale
yellow, white, intense rose; intense turquoise blue.
Women in Iraq
Friday, March 31st, 2006
31st March, early
Are worse off than they were under Saddam, interpress report gives chapter and verse.
Did you doubt it?
Such a feeling of impotence these days,on every issue, impotence.
Thursday, March 30th, 2006
rain in the night, mild gloomy morning.
there’s no murder on the dancefloor this year so far. Frog-slapping must be passe.
I work at my jigsaw, (Partie de Tennis a Vechiville, lovely women, beautiful falls of
hair, tiny waists, my God it must have been mortifying if one of those shackled,
hobbled girls ever beat a young man) while the House bays and yammers behind me.
Prescott says something laborious about the Tories recycling their leaders, they’re
FOF, kicking legs in air (that’s what it sounds like, I didn’t look round). The
schoolmaster’s voice cries “Order! Order! This roaring must stop!”. I think of
Francois Chateaubriand’s long sonorous, thrilling periods. Fake and lies of course, at
that famous Tribune, politics is politics. But so rich in music, rich in CONTENT. If an
actual orator should get up in Westminster today, would they notice? Would they
appreciate? Nah. They might sulk a bit, and demand their chicken nuggets back. The
media lads, afterwards, spoke solemnly of Prescott’s personal-best performance. His
triumphs of off-the-cuff wit. Augh. But it was the same in that green room a hundred
years ago, two hundred years ago, is that reassuring? And I see the Russian Feds are
thinking of invading Georgia, how Great Game of them. I think I’m in a backwards-
flying time machine here.
The Visitor put to bed. The Voyage Out put to bed. Correct a ref on the Cho paper on
gwynethann (a gynoid explains herself) that’s been annoying me since I noticed it. It
was not James Blish who wrote “The Quest For Saint Aquin”. It just seems as if he
should have. It was Anthony Boucher. Work on “Big Cat”, can’t get started. I always
fantasise I’ll write short stories, freely and easily, between books. It never works.
Gabriel’s iPod is lost. Drat, now we realise it is dumb to buy cheap household
insurance with a youth around… Gabriel’s iPod is NOT lost! It’s been walking
around with Louie, or maybe Frank, or perhaps Jake. I’ll wait until I see it to rejoice.
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So, Maybe it’s goodbye
Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
Weds 28th March, grey skies
Mild weather continues
So maybe it’s goodbye Black Holes (I’m catching up on my pop-science news again).
If their evaporation from the astrophysics bestiary is confirmed, I won’t miss them…
Well, all right, I’ll miss them a bit. They were interesting to know when they first
made their bow, very useful characters: from the Interstellar Highway Hazard to
Romantic Appalling Death By Event Horizon, to Tiny Black Holes Eat Us From The
Inside, through the fine metaphysical byways of We Are All Living Inside A Black
Hole And We Never Knew It. I liked them, but it all started to seem old. They’d
begun to have that glassy eyed look of folk at a social gathering, who have forgotten
their way out of a sentence in small talk. Also, I fretted pointlessly over the way the
general public, and sf readers (and writers too, sad to say) lost sight of the fact that the
beasts were still imaginary… Doesn’t matter how ingeniously the wizards have
established exactly how such a creature can fly, or how it does that fire-breathing
trick. A dragon is a dragon, is a dragon.
Nah, who can tell, maybe Black Holes still have legs.The new story is shaky. I speak
as one with a purely aesthetic, business interest, not as one who can make head nor
tail of Dark Energy, but I’ve read a lot of these articles & I can see a touch of sonic
fusion in this. Maybe more important, it doesn’t have that fat, satisfying feel.
If anyone in the Roundhill/Ditchling Road area of Brighton, UK, reads this and would
like some frogspawn please, please get in touch. We deliver!
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Audio link and Comments policy…
Saturday, March 25th, 2006
It’s raining! A soft, persistent rain, and the temperature has risen and the wind has
dropped. Must be Spring. I’d planned to dig the slough today (temporary shelter for
frogspawn), and maybe I’ll do it anyway. Dig myself a hole in the rain, that sounds
And many thanks to Yvonne Hewett, who sent me the URL for the Scott Fitzgerald
reading “On Beauty” audio link.
Someone asked about my comments policy. Well, shorn of the poetic musings (see
the first entry in MT2004 “Wearing Brocades in the Dark”) I’m not really a blogger,
this is just a diary in an unlocked drawer, replacing my rather haphazard news column
on gwynethann. In MT spam filters are cumbersome but blocking all comments
wholesale is a keystroke, so that’s what I did. It’s the other way round in WP so I’m
on a moderator plug-in, this could change if the spam tide rises…
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On Beauty (you have to try this)
Thursday, March 23rd, 2006
Bright sun, blue sky, chill and dry. The little daffodils are out on Siang’s grave at last.
Another chill, dry Spring begins.
Wish it would rain.
You have to try this, I found it when I was doing my Masefield page (which took me
all of ten minutes, oh okay maybe twenty, should I be doing something slicker that
takes proper time and coding? Nah). It’s Scott Fitzgerald reading John Masefield’s
elegaic “On Beauty” aloud. Tell the absolute truth, SFG reading Masefield on antique
recording device sounds not much different from TSELiot reading Ash Wednesday
(which we still have in our archives). But it is eerie, touching, chilling, strange.
Beauty of fire, from the beauty of embers…
Also, the second episode of Rainbow Bridge is now up, and here it is, coincidentally
titled: One Rainy Wish
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Last of the gynoids
Monday, March 13th, 2006
The sharp end of winter still, very cold in my room all day. I’ve rediscovered my
salvaged MT blogs (which I had filed as “WT” in my stories folder), and posted them
as links here, minus pictures, pictures gone. I was tempted as I tucked it all up to
make a few cosmetic enhancements, but I resisted… I edit the recent posts in my live
blog all the time, but when something is finished, it is finished. So, now I know all I
need to know about Wordpress, for my simple purposes. Watch out for the 2005 file,
Gynoids? Thanks to Mari Kotani I used to be famous (so to speak) as the originator of
that term. Glistening pneumatic Japanese cyber-babe sites, Maxim-oriented scifi web-
cyclopedias would dutifully record my name.It became depressing… Difficult to
explain why, as the difference between Cho and the post-Divine Endurance use of
“gynoid” is dead as a duck these days, can’t even be discussed. But times change, and
some wild kind of justice has been at work. The female android ref is now soundly
out-googled by one of the two major variants of obesity= a C21 gynoid is most likely
a bloke with a lardy arse.
Thank God for that!
Editing the record, another view: Francois Chateaubriand made copies of his personal
letters, frugally intending them for later commercial use. Natuarally when he dug
them up to embellish his memoirs he would fix them, with the varnish of hindsight.
But his letters to Juliette, Mme Recamier, remain untouched, exactly the same as
when he wrote for her. Aaah. That’s true love.
NB: Rainbow Bridge, the first episode is up on my homepage, here’s the link again
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Sunday, March 12th, 2006
Cold and dry, bitter wind
First amphib/cat action of the season, Ginger eating glistening tight fresh frogspawn
this morning. So we put it in a bucket, she and Lyra then played at knocking over the
A cold walk around Coombes and Steep Down, snowdrops in the churchyard at the
Saxon church at Coombes (closed for refurbishment, hope that doesn’t mean what
that often means), cold parents and cold little children getting a tractor ride around the
lambing fields. I found a rabbit’s skull on the bostal path, that’s good luck. Such a
sweep of coast, all the way to the Seven Sisters, scoured by a bright sky and an icy
I’ve updated my homepage at last,* plus (as you can see) there are now two active
links here, and that’s enough for now. Zen activities: I’m going to serialise Rainbow
Bridge on gwynethann, and here’s a link: Golden Abalone .
Speak friend and enter, I spent most of Friday afternoon trying to figure out how to
put links into Wordpress posts, tried the code, no luck, how did I make that little
button on the toolbar active, checked the forums, so what’s the big secret??? Peter
(tuh!) spotted the simple, idiotproof route at once. Ah well, there’s always one super-
*not really, have barely started the John Masefield feature.
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My Library Books
Thursday, March 9th, 2006
March 9th, mild and grey
Yesterday the mist turned into rain, but now it’s gone. My Lulu Belle is a mass of
heavy-headed buds, one amazing full-blown flower. Has the wheel of the seasons
finally shifted? Maybe.
I don’t really like the new Jubilee Library (first birthday today, or thereabouts). It’s a
handsome building all right, and a paragon of environmentally sound architecture (it
says here…); maybe that’s the problem. Like a huge fancy Victorian church, superbly
endowed, trying to convince me this means Christianity is in terrific shape. Or maybe
it’s just that architecture needs time, and no one will get fond of this place until it’s a
little worn down, a little seedy, wishful thinking and grandiose pretension become
I don’t like the way all the non-fiction, (or “Information”) has been hived off on the
top floor, either. I’m often looking for “information”, and I liked to see it on equal
terms with the anti-information, a vast sea of which otherwise looks very bland. Ah
well, never mind, I like library books, the comfort food aspect and the randomness of
them: and here’s the pick of my season’s hunter-gathering:
Black Juice, Margo Lanagan Not really a library book, Jon Weir gave me this.
Fantastic, he said. Stunning, incredible. Margo Lanagan, I thought. Margo Lanagan,
and an Ozer, why does that sound so familiar? Went home and googled her, and yep,
it’s my student Margo from Clarion West 1999 (What a cracking class that was).
Turns out she was sort-of posing as an amateur, having already made her first big
sale; though not yet published. I remember she seemed more grown-up that the rest,
not in her writing so much (in which grown-upness is no great advantage and hey,
those Mole Rats!) as in her attitude to the whole thing. I put it down, shame on me, to
cultural difference. . . Sorry, other cousins. I endorse Jon’s opinion, these are great
stories. Folktales, not fairytales, an important and interesting distinction (discuss!) Jon
raved about Singing My Sister Down, the one that won the single story WFA, but my
soft heart preferred best the Rite of Spring, which I read aloud to my 95yrold father,
in the sunlounge of that cottage on the Llyn, and he loved it too. And the last one, the
Point of Roses, more difficult, more demanding in construction, but it made me think,
it lingers in my mind.
The Book of Loss, Julith Jedamus I read the author’s note first (disgusting habit)
and got wary, because the author was accusing herself of taking liberties with Heian
Japan Court life, but this is no “Memoirs of a Geisha”. It’s quite harrowing, a
claustrophobic, absorbing tale of beauty and talent corrupted, and the cruelty of
women in competition with each other. Oh, that mirror, with the characters for Beauty
hacked into the bronze… True, the great “Tale of Genji” had an effect. I kept feeling
scandalised by these ladies being seen standing, having been trained by Murasaki
Shikibu to consider that very infra-dig. Not so worried by the kissing, tho’ I feel a) If
Heians kissed on the mouth as a sexual expression, Sei Shonagon would have made a
list about it, b) dunno, this is just me, but it doesn’t seem to go with blackened teeth.
Was Murasaki right to leave out all the details of those cruelties, just casually noting
that some princess or other was having a hard time at court? I think maybe she was:
certainly it was her triumph over Sei, heheh you can do your worst, you’ll be GONE
from my lasting record… Best bit: Julith Jedamus uncovers convincing mechanism
for political upheaval entirely caused by the malice of one minor court lady towards
another. Added bonus: the Amazon.com reviewer who ran a comparison between
Seidensticker (the translation I have of the Tale of Genji) and this other bloke with all
the footnotes, Royall Tyler. Convinced me, finally, that as I’m no scholar, I don’t
need to buy the advanced class version.
Caravaggio, Christopher Preachment. The artist as Sex-Pistol, with vital difference
that Michelangelo Merisi, (Caravaggio) a genius and his anarchy genuine. Time for
some superlatives, or I’ll be rambling on here all day. Best book about being a violent,
driven, mad lout of a modern artist I have ever read, and brilliant technique. It got a
bit touristy in the middle, when “Caravaggio” goes to Sicily and waxes sentimental
about the C17 version of the Mafia, but I really liked the deliberate continuity flaws,
as when, on one occasion, our Sex Pistol drops into a bar for an expresso and a ciggy.
Don’t place too much credence on the death scene.
The Terracotta Dog, Andrea Camilleri Another of those foreign roman policier
series of which we never tire. This one is Sicilian (not at all sentimental about the
Mafia, more blackly humorous). It has all the features: the all-important food and
drink, the local colour, the political asides, the cast of misfit policemen/women, the
likeable, doom-prone hero/ine. Excellent writing, excellent translator. No need for me
to tell you anything about the plot, you know how it goes, suffice to say this variation
is new. Total find, a real treat. Why do I like roman policiers, whereas a lot of other
fiction bores me? Why do I call them by their french name? This is down to a book by
Paul Bleton, called Ca se lit comme un roman policier, which investigates the
question in great detail. In short, I don’t live the way mainstream fiction characters
live, absorbed in my own soapsuds. I live as if I’m in a policier: with an ongoing
puzzle, an idea that I’m working out, and my daily life happens around it, sweetened
and sharpened by the nagging presence. My puzzle is the book I’m writing of course.
To other ideas people it might be the bridge they are designing, the class they are
teaching, or the role of innexin gap junctions in cell-cell communication. Whatever,
it’s something you ‘ll either understand or you won’t…
She Walks These Hills, Sharyn McCrumb As recommended by Greil Marcus in
The Invisible Republic. So now I know that should I ever be in Tennessee, I better talk
about Apa-latch-ian not Apa-laych-ian folk music, (hm…maybe I’ll just keep my
mouth shut). Rather slow paced, rather self-congratulatory and not at all pop-
intellectual, prose style more like that big rocking chair that don’t go nowhere. But the
mood darkens, and the tale grips as shadows gather.
The Athenian Murders Jose Carlos Somoza Usually I don’t know why people rave
about these tricksy Iberian fictions about the strange relationship between writer, text,
characters, reader (Iberian? Somoza is an expat Cuban living in Madrid, apparently,
but it isn’t just the Americas branch, they’ve been at it since at least C16th). Seems to
me they’re belabouring the obvious (cf Cubism). But there’s a point to it and anyway
I could not resist a foreign roman policier with a short, fat, pernickety Athenian
detective called Heracles Planor, which promised to be also an exposition of Plato’s
Theory of Forms. It got slow in the middle, but Plato’s Athens is very real and it picks
up for an absolutely serious, genuinely thrilling finale, plus a joke on the reader saved
for the last page.
Oh, oh, oh, what a long post. Enough, enough, and I didn’t even get to Kazuo
Ishiguro, never mind… I went to the library again yesterday, in the rain, on my way to
swim, and found A White Darkness, Geraldine McCaughrean straight away, as
recommended by Sarah Singleton, (hi Sarah). So then I knew I was on a roll, zoomed
over to C in the grown-ups’ stacks and found Andrea Camilleri’s The Shape of Water.
Don’t you just hate it when the library has six copies of the smashing new writer’s
second, plastered with mad praise for the previous book, the one that’s never there…
Also picked up Philip Mansel on Paris 1814-1852. Finally got sick of not knowing
what to trust in Francois’s highly idiosyncratic reports. And equally not knowing how
much to trust of the chorus of friends and admirers, trashing Chateaubriand’s
memoirs. I have friends and admirers like that myself.
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Has it come to this?
Wednesday, March 8th, 2006
Wednesday 8th March
White mist to the eaves outside my window. It was raining yesterday, this morning
there must be warm air coming off the sea. Spring bulbs in the garden about five and a
half weeks, maybe six, behind where they were last year. Amphibs barely getting
started; my camellias, pining for their chill, damp cloud forest, should be happier
today, but I doubt if the red one’s flowers will recover from the drought they suffered
last August and September. I’m working on recovering my health, a mere cold can
fell you when your reserves are depleted, and on promotional material for Jon Weir.
My musical moments: Dead Kennedys at the Manchester Apollo, me all alone, still
dressed for camping in the Pacific North West, red braid down to my bum, befriended
by those punks I’m sure purely on the grounds of my utterly bizarre appearence, (Sex
Pistols to the contrary, punks were generally kindly folk) Eeeh, we were that poor, we
shared cigarettes with nothing but tobacco in them… Grateful Dead at the Ally Pally,
right up against the stage, staring into the monster boxes of those days, the feedback
was DISGUSTING, after about four and a half hours I insisted hysterically on
walking out, Peter just couldn’t understand it. The Buzzcocks in that bunker, me
getting photographed by the man from Honey (my brief career as hip columnist). Nick
Cave at Xtreems screeching I AM A FIGURE OF FUN and stage-diving, ouch, ouch,
wham. You used to know about it when you got stage dived in that dive…Â The time
we took Peter’s bridge partner to see Jesus and Mary Chain at the Pavilion Theatre,
ooh dear, maybe we should have warned him not to wear his glasses. The time we
took Bruce Sterling… Where did we take him? It was the Zap, but what was the gig? I
have no idea, completely gone. Ah, these mad scraps, I’m the bag lady of UK sf. I
think of the real writers, with their matching Gucci luggage, where did I go wrong?
Ah well, perfection in the life or in the work.
Has it come to this? A house which is actually supernally clean and tidy (I know how
we spent the weekend) looks proper mashed after an evening in with the football. Me,
I wasÂ in bed, caring for neither Barcelona nor Chelsea. I wonder what it would have
been like to live in girl-world. Hm… They probably would have made me live in a
kennel in the yard.
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Friday, March 3rd, 2006
Cold, grey afternoon; but no frost
My, my, that trip to North Wales was a tour de force. The price I pay for keeping
(more or less) clear of my feuding sisters is that I follow orders blindly. . . often not a
good idea. Thus, this dumb grunt ends up alone with two fragile elderly charges in the
most isolated cottage on the Llyn, with no network coverage and the nearest
phonebox three quarters of a mile away; no human habitation closer except holiday
cottages mainly empty at the unforgiving end of winter. The north wind never gave
up, the beach walk was out of their reach. The 150 yards (I’m sorry, under stress I
revert to imperial measure) down to the slipway among the rocks was an epic journey,
but we managed it nearly every day. And there were blue periwinkles scattered like
blessings under the naked blackthorn hedge. There were shells for me to bring back,
and best of all there was the sky at night, Orion, blazing above the back yard; the
Plough, Andromeda and Pegasus. Blew their minds. How long since they had seen the
tattered scarf of the Milky Way? Too long.
Now I’m waiting for the call that says I have to hurry back to Manchester. Maybe it
won’t come, maybe life will be calm again for a while.
The days lengthening mercilessly, the ground still hard as stone, it’ll be April before
we have any daffodils. Next week, if I’m here, I must get onto that homepage, and
add the links to make this new blog a bit more seaworthy.
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Since Mozart’s Birthday
Friday, February 17th, 2006
17th February, mild. Dark low rainy sky
So much has happened since Mozart’s birthday. I finished the revision of Snakehead,
which proved a tussle in the end; my father had another stroke; Gabriel’s run through
at Christopher and Vivienne Liu’s house went well, and thank you so much to the Liu
family, how 18th century we felt, what delicious cakes. . and the recital at the Chapel
Royal, North St, on the 14th got a full house. What a great institution that place is,
lunchtime concerts which I may now attend, hey hey, as I have finished my seven
year burn. (Still got to do the author’s note for Snakehead, and the site for Rainbow
Bridge nb). Talked to Steve O’Hagan and his director from BBC4 about Catastrophes,
as I’m in that cadre apparently (Utopias are for the young turks), at Pause on Preston
Circus: what friendly people & Laura’s bear-stories worth the morning for me all by
themselves. Apparently if you sing to bears they are mollified.They think you are
Native American persons, worshiping them as is proper. But why the theme tune to
“The Archers” should work on a black bear remains a mystery. I’m afraid of bears, as
some may remember from Midnight Lamp. And not just because they signify the
awesome might of California. Catastrophes, mm. Makes sense to me, as I’m living in
And what else? Can’t remember. A trip to see Jon at Fortress Orion, opportunity to
apologise to Design Dept for my scabby “colophons” which they had to clean up. . .Â
birds in the bushes, first amphibs in the pool (my poor fish, the traditional house-
invasion has started, the yobs are going to pour in,Â graffiti on the walls, fornication
in the living room, excreta all over, and in the end they’ll just wander off, leaving
mounds of foundling children. And they’re protected, fish: sorry. You are not.) I have
sweet daphne by my bed, but this year no daffodils in the garden yet.
Now I’m off to the Llyn for a week, slightly hair-raising prospect, but my father
wants to go back to Wales, for what may well be the last time. Taking the Vaio for
homework, and Margo Lanagan’s Black Juice, of which more later.
Sunday, January 29th, 2006
27th January, Friday
Mozart’s birthday: to St Bartholemew’s to hear the Hanover Band’s Prague 1791
concert. Driving snow, or frozen sleet, illuminated by rare headlights on the black,
night-flying Upper Lewes Road. And and Peter walk ahead, Gabriel and I huddle
behind. The highest nave in England and the worst acoustic in Brighton, why does
this church get all the gigs? It must be admitted the place looks good, very Russian or
Polish, all that seasoned, solemn nakedness of red brick, glittery mosaic, shimmering
lamps and soaring blind arches; and about fifteen differently marbled kinds of fancy
marble. Maybe it works if you pay your Â£25 to shiver in the front rows, we shivered
in the Â£15 and though it was interesting to see the basset horns and strange
trombones, the two hundred and fifty year old pianoforte and all, I have still no idea
what the Hanover Band sounds like. Etiolated strings, whining around like sad bats.
By listening with painful concentration I did manage to appreciate the piano concerto
(No27). Nikolai Demidenko gets thumbs up from Gabriel, we repair to the primary
school hall up the road and join the immense, shivering queue without even asking
what’s at the other end. Two onions? Bread? We send out scouts who discover tea,
coffee & not so much as a chocolate biscuit else. Spend the rest of the time admiring
glued things in wall displays.
Back for the second half. The Requiem was pretty good. Hanover Chorus triumphs
over the vasty deeps of dead air above them, that’s a magnificent piece of music, no
matter where or when. Still sleeting out there, and a nasty wind. And and Peter
decided to go on to the Greys, but I went home, chilled to the bone & my back
hurting. So then Gabriel and I decided to light a fire. No fuel in the hod! Out in the
basement area, sleet pelting on the back of my neck, I struggle to upend a monstrously
heavy, slithery, freezing plastic bag of smokeless over the mouth of the hod-
Keepthethingstill! PUT it down on the ground, I can’t-
DON’T tilt it!
It’s like milking a cow-
We have to make the hole bigger-
Fire catches. Oh, no it doesn’t. Fire going out. I decide to show Gabriel an old
northern trick, for drawing a fire with newspaper. Unfortunately the trick really needs
a broadsheet newspaper and a shovel. I improvise with the tabloid Independent. Fire
escapes from grate, leaps about, nearly a nasty accident. It’s all right, I was planning
to retouch the enamel anyway*.
Meanwhile someone on BBC4 is saying (I paraphrase) that Mozart’s music is a
message from God (aka, for those of us who don’t believe in anything but the cold
and the equations, the whole fifteen dimensional kaleidoscope), saying it may not
look like it, but all is well. . . I’m moved to agree with him.
(*Yes, it was a chaste, elegant, acanthusy Art Deco cast-iron fireplace, I painted it in
bright enamels, me Vanessa Bell)
I love it. This is what winter ought to be like.
New Riders Of The Purple Sage at the Greys on 26th Feb. (Not really, but one of
them) My God! Got to be there!
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Wednesday, January 25th, 2006
It’s cold, the roofs are white, the dark morning makes me think of Paris in the the
springtime, in Band of Gypsys. The hot water has switched itself off. I twist and hold
the reset button, clunk, thunk, and think of sixty million or so other people doing the
same thing, more or less. . . Turn back the dial on global warming? I don’t think so!
Look at the size of the thing, just for a moment. Change gonna come, no matter how
many wind turbines Arnie plants, to boost the Californian economy (it’s like a colour-
blindness test: can you spot the error in logic, or is it invisible to you). Pull out of this
tailspin with our lean-burning SUVs and our organic green beans from Kenya intact?
Depends which colours you can see.
Survive the death of the natural world with our schools and roads, public health, clean
water and civil liberties intact? Oh, sorry: I meant, what’s left of those strange,
fanciful, utopian amenities. I wonder how long before we find out?
My son’s eighteen, sometimes I think about that. But I’m just a scaremonger (I hope).
Yay! The vegetable box. Usual staples, plus two fat tomatoes, a head of fennel, a bag
of rocket, two large and lumpy beetroots. Should I pickle them, or make borcht (sp?)
Or boil them for a macedonie, with that walnut and garlic dressing I learned on
Naxos? And my Maurois biography of Chateaubriand has arrived. And I’d better get
back to work.
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Arundhati Roy, landmarks
Wednesday, January 18th, 2006
18th January, wet and mild
I see Arundhati Roy has refused the Sahitya Akademi Award, and done it gracefully
too, good for her. There’s no use in being nasty when you turn down an honour, it
ruins the gesture and you don’t make your point. Finished and delivered The Voyage
Out yesterday, another landmark (a ‘Buonarotti’ story, at last: reminding me of the
time I sat at the 2001 SFF conference bar in Liverpool, listening to Liz Sourbut tell
me about her genuine hypnagogic experience (sp?) a real world “alien abduction”
event, and could discuss the physiology of the brain about it, no need to smile and
nod, that was a treat.) I think I’m sailing up the Channel, watching them go by. By
Beachy, by Fairlight, by Dungeness. As someone so rightly pointed out, if you have a
fair wind you do not count them off like that. . . But I like January, there’s no other
month like it. I like the way it goes on, and on. I get things done.
Department of seeing what the young people are up to: Augh, no tickets left for Arctic
Monkeys in the Dome, serves us right for being slackers. And we have tickets for The
Streets at the Astoria, but we can’t go.
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Is it raining?
Monday, January 16th, 2006
16th January wet and mild, grey low skies.
Is it actually raining? Oh, yes it is. Rain is good. (Frost is better). Scuttle down to the
green cone to empty the compost bin. Lovely weather for slugs! Rinse bin under the
outside tap, and fit the gutter pipe to the rain water butt, must remember to undo that
bfour anyone has a shower. My Lulu Belle’s fat buds are getting bruised for lack of
light, should I cut them? Peter thinks that would be vandalism. But soon I’ll bring in
some sprigs of the scented daphne, and that’ll be the end of gracefully decaying
winter by my bed, berries crumpled on a twig of holly, the orange and pink
spindleberries turned to rust, whitebeam berries withered but still glistening scarlet,
only the sprigs of pine (actually Norway Spruce, from my overgrown rockery bonsai)
full of life.
We took Ginger in the cemetery yesterday, which she liked very much (she’s more
secure with two people). Sad state of affairs by the Engineer’s Tomb, where there’s
been a party, sodden ashes, trampled earth; too many places where the turf has been
allowed to grow out, rank and plantain, that’s eutrophication (sp?) bad thing that
happens all over. But a winter silence confirmed by the rustle of sheaves of rust and
ash-blond leaves on the walks, so I’m glad for some kinds of neglect. Lots of activity
at the badgers’ set, one tiny patch of snowdrops in a very sheltered hollow. A child’s
soft toy, a small bear that was once white, lies mouldering on the grass beside a grave
where something or someone has been digging (but sometimes graves fall in of their
own accord, leaving draggled eerie gaps into darkness at the root of a stone), oooh,
and here’s another, a severed head of a soft toy cat, equally muddied.. What do these
signs mean? Ginger, get away from there! Do not get spooked little cat, hurry by, it’s
I see Jeff VanderMeer’s written the screaming frog story at last. Hi Jeff… that’s nice
to know. Must ask him where, I’d like to read it.
I’m reading December/January New Scientists in quick succession, like Alice eating
all those dinners but with more relish. But the 7th January issue, inaugurating their
fiftieth year, had me gasping for the wrong reasons. Maybe they were tired after the
festive double, which is often lightweight but this year a real cracker. Huge coverage
for scaremongering about Bird Flu (if you decide to barricade yourself into your
house during the pandemic… etc, etc), without a single mention of what Bird Flu
actually does, which is kill birds. A paper on hyperdrive space travel written entirely
in Gernsback Continuumese; an interview with an archaeologist who reveals meaty
scientific details about his craft: “sometimes people who think outside the box don’t
make the best team players…“. Ah, it’s not a new disease. The idols of the market
place have always ruled, as the editors so rightly point out, even in Popular Science
magazines. (Safe as milk, anyone?)
Poliakoff’s Friends and Crocodiles, what was that about? Shallow, stunningly
predictable repetitive pap for mediafolk (or maybe archaeologists) who get teary-eyed
over augh, those “low-hanging fruit” days, and grandiose decor makeovers at the
office? I’ll stick with Life on Mars, me teary-eyed for white dogs**t. I got more fun
out of Invasion, (and I bet it was Meriel’s skeleton in the boot). Ha! Bring on the
Bodysnatchers, it’s the nineteen fifties again. But I’ll never know about the skeleton
because life is too short for so much tv, even for a writer convalescent between burns.
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2006
11th January, wind and rain, dark skies
I work fast, it’s my nature, and the more I have to do the faster I work. It’s no problem
to me to hammer out fifty thousand words in six weeks, and that includes constant
revision (I don’t do much else, minor matters like eating and sleeping take back seat
& I don’t miss ‘em). Then, having produced my raw material, I can begin to carve it
into shape, which is slower but equally obsessive. But now I’m slow. Rainbow Bridge
is put to bed, gone to production (after a wild flurry of final crises yesterday), Voyage
Out and Snakehead revision a blissfully, (relatively) peaceful prospect… I need to
recharge my batteries, I need to breathe. Just wasted some time collecting the
Moveable Type blog from Google caches, back to July 2004 = my own archive got
lost in the shuffle. It reads nicer than any diary I’d write NOT for publication, I can
tell you… Ran across an ancient review of the original Bold As Love in my hunting
and gathering ‘finished this book on champagne and tequila’, says mr sfnal man
(biased and superficial sf reviews), goes into reminiscences about a magical visit to
Reading festival, tent planted over a ditch, dealings with kindly police (DON’T try
that now!), and concludes ‘don’t remember a thing about the book, but it was good…’
That’s the style, and thank you whoever you are.
This is a great day for my birdwatching, the Crescent’s flock of greenfinches blown
from tree to tree, feathers ruffled. The wren on the wall. A female chaffinch alone and
oooh, hey, both the blackcaps, foraging together, male with his sober black cap,
female with her russet bonnet. I’ve often seen him, and heard him sing of course, but
never, ever seen her before. One pair. Do they rear nestlings, that’s the question. With
all these squirrels around, and bad cats…
Coloured picture heading, keystroke formating, sigh, I miss the austerity of Moveable
Type, but there, the great thing about working on the internet is that if you stay still,
whatever you do becomes naked simplicity in a short while. In time I must set up
housekeeping here, add the tagline, links, upload the archive I gleaned, add a few
photos, but it’ll wait. I need to watch tv, swim, take Ginger into King Death’s Garden,
mist my houseplants, listen to Gabriel play the piano, listen to Peter telling me what
he’s doing with the new interactive code he’s learning. Must find that Ezra Pound
poem about the eyes, rest master, for we be a weary, weary…
News department, Justina Robson has two books on the PK Dick list. I shouldn’t say
this, not having read any of the others, but I bet Natural History wins. That book has
real class. See yourself as others see you department. Nah, not drinking, I’m back to
work tomorrow, says I to Farah Mendlesohn. Oh, says she, you have a job now?
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The Three Guineas
Tuesday, January 10th, 2006
Tuesday 10th January, damp and grey. Finally the leaves have fallen in the Crescent’s
sheltered enclave. The little birds -vanished from my stage for so long- are visible
again. Strange how Christmas, just an incident in the old-style winters I dimly
remember from the eighties, has become the hinge-point. As soon as the leaves are
gone Spring is on its way, although it’ll be a long time coming. When I use my
binoculars, to watch the finches flocking on the sycamore in Pete and Alison’s
garden, I see new buds gleaming, bright as paint.
Yesterday I got out to the University at Falmer, to get Stan’s Olaf Stapledon letter
copied for him. The Special Collections dept doesn’t do distance-aquisition, I have to
go there in person, sit at a table with the box the archivist brings to me, identify my
letter with a paperclip and a pink slip, put everything back where I found it, leave the
box on the table and go and pay my 25p (per photocopy page). Plus inland postage. I
may make a paraphrase or copy the letter by hand, if I like, but I may only use pencil.
I must leave my coat, phone, any non-see-through folders, etc, at the front desk.
Journeying back in time like so, into the silence of unseen archivists and the pleasant
smell of old photocopy paper, I could have lingered all day reading the
correspondence: letters from Vita Sackville-West, from the Sitwells, from Mica Spira,
an Austrian refugee trying to rescue her husband from internment (in 1939). Agnes
Smith, unemployed textile worker, of Huddersfield, writes crying out against The
Three Guineas, reproaching Virginia Woolf for the way she sees only the plight of the
daughters of ‘educated men’. The Grande Dame evidently replied, unrepentant, ‘I
have needs too…’ Rather crass of her, (imagine the Bloomsbury Group as the cast of
‘Friends’) considering the woman writing from Huddersfield was unquesitonably an
intellectual, talented, political activist and thinker, and actually starving; staying in
bed to ’save a meal’, feeling pangs of hunger over a penny bun shared with her little
nephew, describing ‘the sick hopelessness of finding myself doomed to start work as a
half-timer at twelve…’ But give her credit, VW pursued the correspondence, even
though Agnes (inevitably) proved to be a hopeful writer, hoping the woman who had
made it up the slippery slope would get her published, argh. Later in the same box, a
pamphlet authored by Agnes Smith, on the Wool Textle Industry and how it fared in
wartime: a worker’s view. ‘Somehow we have to get that common interest and desire
to serve the community into all our industries…’ What an aspiration. Strange meeting,
for a moment. That’s where I came from: that trapped voice, that era, that region gave
What else? Edith Sitwell being precious about Wombats, the poet May Sarton getting
emotional (and a bit grovelly) about her failed novel. Ethel Smith, different caste
entirely from Agnes, telegraphs (presumably about The Years) “Final paragraph
almost smashes the machine of Life with its terrible duty”. Hm. That’s a big almost.
Charming vision of telegrams as the email of their time, except very much more
expensive. The women, except Vita S-W and Sitwell, all address VW as ‘Dear
Virginia Woolf’, which looks very daft, and is bad manners. But a lot of the box was
handwritten and illegible, or nearly illegible, and I wasn’t committed enough for that.
How quiet the library seemed as I made my way out; maybe it was early.
I wonder will anyone who reads Rainbow Bridge notice that problematic Three
Guineas connection, that station bar, still a haven of publiness in the Carling Festival
days, and even now, tho’ so much changed since I sat there one rainy night, on my
way back from some touching Workers’ Writer event, (my whole milieu, from VW’s
perspective) supping Pride alone and thinking about a long, complex fantasy novel.
Brokeback Mountain, ah, Brokeback Mountain, a little disappointing from the
moment the one who wears blue (Jack) gets out of his pickup and poses, pink calendar
boy. No mystery there, then. No surprises, and nothing whatever transgressive; just a
period piece. So that’s why it’s getting all the attention! Postcards, postcards, the
vanished silences of those days… I get the feeling the drama probably works better in
the story, whereas with The Shipping News it’s the other way round. But it was good
to look at, and the spectacle of the Duke Of Yorks dealing with a phenomenon worth
the price of admission, (always supposing you’d booked your tickets, and had not
been dumb enough to repair to the bar, or to kiosk for snacks, before trying to find a
seat). How to make three hundred people feel as if they’re crushing and struggling to
see the event of the year!
But I were right about those hats, mind.
Are my full stops and commas and spelling obsessively correct in this entry? They
bloody well ought to be, after the intensive week I’ve had with my editor. Nah,
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Friday, January 6th, 2006
Feast of the Epiphany, 6th January, cold raw-feeling day, low cloud. I didn’t get out,
waiting for files, working on Snakehead and drafting The Voyage Out.
Memo to selves: What is Brighton? Arguably the gay capital of the UK. What is
Brokeback Mountain? Cowboys, with hats, making out. Cowboys, having hot sex by
the campfire. Probably wearing the hats… What is this? Friday night, and the one at
the bottom of our hill is the funky cinema. Of course it is sold out. We are such idiots.
Back to Gardener’s World it is then.
I have no coat, my coat is at the menders having new pockets fitted. I’m going to find
some chocolate money. And it’s the end of Christmas, which means we have to do
housework again (streamers up = no housework). And we seem to have eaten all the
fancy food, except the strange-tasting chocolate money and a quince. Life is hard.
And this is my first post on word press, my webmeister having moved me here for
sound financial reasons I do believe, plus Word Press being sublime.
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