Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Watty's back:

I've been away. What do you mean, how could we tell? Well, anyway.

I've been to Hesketh Bank, which is the sort of place you only go when you have friends who live there. No, actually, it's perfectly pleasant and not far from Southport, which before now played a very minor part in my story (passim ad nauseam), but which now may just play a crucial role in the denouement. Watch this space. Or don't.
Anyway; unusually for this summer, we spent time basking in warm sunshine - we even went to the beach on Sunday. (Note to self - suncream on face as well as rest of pale flesh). I even paddled in the Irish Sea - not as fulfilling as swimming naked in the Irish Sea last year, but - well, they won't let you do it anyway, and there was a pale brown froth scarily similar to cappuccino froth at the water's edge. And a dead jellyfish. We trundled along Southport Pier and did all manner of holiday-type things. And then we drove home in driving rain, which was much more like the British summer we all know and love. Next up is two days at home, followed by three days of 'me' time, which I shall spend trying to visit every second-hand bookshop between Brighton and Budleigh Salterton (no, I'm not going to Multimap them - look them up yourself...)

Oh, and Dunx, if you're reading this, I will drop you a note about your recent bloggings, but I'm going to wait until I have time to do it justice.
And furthermore - nat: I'd love to Prom on Saturday, but I'll be in Winchester ( I think) - say it's not our last chance this summer...

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Watty promenades:

The first Proms report of the season - not sure if I'll keep this up in this much detail (and don't get too excited, I'll only be going to five or six of them at most...)

Firstly, how pleasant it was to have company in the queue - I've been Promming alone for so long now that I'm still slightly surprised to find that the time passes much quicker if one is deep in conversation. Thos joined the queue busily apologising for being somewhat under the weather; without being unkind, it has to be said that he did look quite pale, but not in a 'pale and interesting' way. The estimable PaulWay arrived shortly after, and we shuffled to the back of the queue - there seems to be a new policy of selling the tickets in the queue, which prevents queue-jumping, but makes meeting people in the queue slightly more difficult than it used to be - and passed the time most pleasantly. Thos' constitution wasn't, as he had feared, up to the task of standing all evening, and he did the sensible thing by abandoning us as we started to go in.

Whereupon the first surprise. The refurbishments to the RAH have been going on for several years now, and for us poor Prommers, have all seemed to be hidden. This year, however, one descends into the arena corridor to be met, not with the old dingy passageway, but a new, sumptuous, clean, bright foyer - the bar areas have been opened up to encompass the corridor, giving a feeling of space and even airiness; even the toilets have been upgraded. A huge improvement. I'll say now, however, that there is no sign whatsoever of the much vaunted air cooling system - perhaps it would have been even hotter and stickier without it; who knows - I certainly didn't notice any difference.
The magic of emerging into the arena for the first time in a season does not fade with familiarity; it fills me with joy to see it again - the sheer redness of the place; the scale of it - I always get a craving to leap up on the stage and declaim some Shakespeare or something; it must be an inspiring venue to perform in.

The Prom itself was excellent - I had not heard the Barcelona orchestra before, and they seemed a young and enthusiastic bunch - just right for, especially, the second half of the programme. The Gerhard concerto was as challenging as it promised to be - there was a certain amount of fidgeting visible in the arena - but I rather enjoyed its turbulent river of sound, and the percussion section, in particular, seemed to be enjoying themselves. Viktoria Mullova was the soloist in the Mendelssohn, and I thought she handled it pretty well - she gave off an air of casual competence verging on boredom in the early passages, but she seemed to brighten as time wore on, and the andante and finale were just the right side of exuberant for me. I don't think I heard anything new in such a well-known work, but I don't think I expected to. The second half was full of Hispanic passion, and flowed wonderfully; the Five Negro Songs were treated to a mezzo with just the right amount of warmth in her tone, and a joyful bounce in her performance where appropriate; and the Three-cornered Hat was played with the joy and flourish of an orchestra which knows and loves a work well. Had we not been standing up for several hours, we might well have danced the finale. There was even a little bit of Zarzuela as an encore - don't ask me what it was, though...

Right about now, Paul will be experiencing his first taste of post-Prom legs; that feeling that the lower leg will never be the same again; but it wears off. Promise. We strolled through the park and grabbed a quick meal in Paddington before I scarpered for the train - a terrific evening's entertainment, and the promise of more to come.

Monday, July 22, 2002

Watty says:

My Monday morning routine has got to change. I've been in the office for an hour now, and most of what I've done has been reading blogs, catching up with MC games, and Sluggy Freelance. I really ought to be doing some work. But equally, I have not posted here for a week. Harumph.

What I did last week:

On Wednesday we went to see Minority Report. I have reviewed this elsewhere, but I liked it. And I like it even more in retrospect. I think partly I liked it because of what it could so easily have turned into - especially after the disappointment of AI.

On Thursday I spent the evening sweating in the attic (sidebar: when I was young, our family called it the loft. Zoë's family called it a roof space. I've wobbled between the two for years and I realise with a start that I now call it the attic - I thik it's living in England that does that.) looking for my Turkish textbooks. The Teach Yourself Turkish is exactly where I thought it would be; I find several potentially useful books to send to Nicklas; I find my old OS map of Aylesbury & Leighton Buzzard; I find the copy of the Scotsman newspaper from June 1984 which has the list of all the Linguistics graduates from my class (I note that my degree hasn't improved over the years); I cannot find the Turkish Grammar. Which is most odd, because it (along with my two Norton anthologies) was the only academic textbook which I kept on my bookshelves after I graduated - I think it was an introverted form of showing off - it should be with all the dictionaries and so on, but it's not. I shall not rest until I find it, however.

On Friday, I made a break for it at about 3pm. It was a wonderfully warm day, and I wanted to spend the end of it in the park. Trekked through the usual rail nonsense, found a post ofice to send the phonetics books to Sweden; made it to St. James' Park tube. From there, it is possible to walk to Lancaster Gate crossing only two roads - The Mall and South Carriage Drive (and Rotten Row, of course). I strolled, I watched the tourists turning pink; I dodged the rollerbladers; I went the long way across Green Park, lost in thought; I stopped to smell the roses; I watched the ducks on the Serpentine; I saw Tom Paulin holding forth in the Serpentine Gallery pavilion; I went in to the Serpentine Gallery and saw the Gilbert & George exhibition (which just goes to prove how much times have changed since 1977 - it's not even remotely shocking now); I strolled past Peter Pan; I probably trod on nat; I wandered through Paddington, and then I went and had dinner with PaulWay, nat, and Simons Mith. It was better than my usual Friday afternoon by an order of magnitude I cannot even begin to describe.

On Saturday the boys and I got caught in a thunderstorm and felt most elemental, and yesterday I took my sister back to the airport through what appeared to be a police cordon. I can only imagine that someone extremely important was arriving at Luton airport yesterday.

And now I've spent half an hour doing this, instead of more work.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Watty explains:

OK, here goes. Those of you who know me will know about my story. (If you don't; I'll give you time to read it before we carry on. Or you could just skip this entry.) (Oh, while we wait, a big thank you to rab for putting the script together which extracts the story. I'm still not used to the idea that I have actual readers out there, people who go out of their way to follow what I write.) OK? Ready? New para, I think.

You'll have noticed a character in the story called 'Janet'. She's a character in a work of fiction, just as all the others are, including the narrator, who in truth is someone I would have liked to have been, rather than who I was. But there's a fair bit of autobiography in there, too - lots of the background colour is stuff that actually happened to me. I had a friend called Janet in those days; she was a fellow linguist and lived in a flat in Buccleuch Place, pretty much as per the story. As far as I know, she didn't even know anyone called James, and certainly didn't get up to the things I portray. And especially (and this is the bit I feel bad about) wasn't weak-willed and easily influenced my mere men. So, anyway - last week, Janet turned up at Friends Reunited. I got in touch (well, what would you do?); she wrote back; I confessed. I pointed her to the story, I explained as best I could what was going on, and I pointed out that 'Janet' wasn't Janet.

I haven't heard back. She's probably wondering what happened to that nice, sensible, quiet bloke she used to know, and how come he turned into the sort of person who writes defamatory prose.

Well, she might be.

I'll keep you posted.

Watty slows down for a minute:

That's better. It's been a full steam ahead few days; in the words of the old cliché, I've come back to work for a rest. I'm interested to know how I've coped this weekend, so I'm going to write it down and see what comes out.

The weekend started on Friday lunchtime. I managed to persuade flerdle to drop her hire car off in Watford rather than at Heathrow, since it would mean more lunch and less driving - in the end, of course, the lovely Watford traffic saw to that plan. I swear we spent an hour in the car anyway. Ah, well. The phone call to say "I'm here - come and get me" came from Nat's phone - fortunately I still had sufficient braincells about my person to work out that Nat was therefore there, too, and that I ought to bring her the promised Giotto (It's in German, but it gives the idea...). So lunch evolved into an elastic period involving detours via Watford Junction and the lovely Clarendon Arms, before a trip to penelope's house to drop off flerdle's luggage (it does all make sense, honestly) and then the delights of Rickmansworth Station. Possibly the strangest lunch hour (alright, two hours) I've ever spent - the unexpected delight of seeing Nat, however briefly; the sheer oddity of being in pen's house while she was at work; just the overall strangeness of all these far-flung people who are usually just words on the chatroom screen appearing in my lunchtime, after which, I just went back to work. In hastily waving flerdle off at Ricky, I idly wondered when we might ever meet again - trips to Brisbane are a little outside the budget for the forseeable future - but stranger things have happened.

The afternoon passed in what can only be described as a flurry of emails, principally because Néa was trying to find out about our lunchtime, and then I scarpered to Luton to collect my sister and her new(ish) boyfriend (Aside: there must be a better word than boyfriend. They're grown-ups, for goodness sake.). We spent a pleasant weekend with them - Stuart is off back to Scotland this morning, Heather is here all week. I'm not sure what one is supposed to feel towards one's sister's partner on meeting him for the first time, but we got on very well; he fitted right in with the boys - he has children of his own - and a weekend of sunshine, gardening, gliders and barbecues passed off very comfortably indeed. Heather had brought Conor a paddling pool as his belated birthday present - everyone got very wet on Saturday afternoon amid much all round silliness.

I'm sure there were other things to comment on, but I can't remember them right now.

Oh. Oh, yes - Janet.

OK, that one's going to have to wait. I'll explain later. (he said mysteriously)

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Watty rants:

How in the name of all that has a name does a 5 minute doctor's appointment take 1 hour? It's inconvenient and inefficient for me, sure - but it must be affecting the surgery, too. The main problem is processing people when they come in. The reception desk is in the wrong place, for a start - you come in the door, and it's right there - there's no convenient place to queue up (we brits love a good queue), so a scrum forms, blocking the door. Then you wait. And wait. There are four people behind the desk, but only one of them is actually dealing with people coming in, and her main job is...
answering the phone. This makes little or no sense to me, but maybe that's just me. So I arrive 5 minutes early, but spend ten minutes staring pointedly at the various reception staff hoping one of them might want to talk to me, while the time for my appontment passes. All I need to do is tell them I am here, something which takes, what - half a second? There must be a better way... And then I have to queue again afterwards for my prescription to be filled (it's a rural surgery; they dispense), and then (and OK this is my fault) when I discover I don't have enough money (this is the free NHS, remember - everything costs), I pop home - next door - get some money, run back, and spend another 15 minutes in the scrum so that I can pay. It's absurd. But I feel better now I've ranted.

What? Me? Oh, I have a chest infection thing, for which I have been prescribed inhalers. It'll be gone in a fortnight, apparently.

So, I wrote nearly 3000 words last night. It just flowed out of me once I had worked out the kinks in the plot. I'm optimistic about getting it finished now. Can't wait to see how it turns out...

Depression Index: Very variable. It's to do with being ill, of course - I never handle that well. I've been so unpredictable these past few days that I actually scare myself - suddenly snapping for no reason, just when I thought I was feeling good. But I was good yesterday, and good today: I find I just know when I wake up - I don't even have to think about it. This is also good; It means I am more attuned to it. Sometimes, though, I wish I didn't have to be. *sigh* So, last night, when flerdle asked for directions to Hay-on-Wye, I was able to ring and chat; I made some excuse the night before - I just didn't feel able. Which makes me laugh now, but is the thing I probably hate the most. To pick up the phone and call a friend: it's not so much to ask, is it? But I don't beat myself up about it any more - it just happens; it's part of what I am, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. This is a whole subject area I want to get into sometime. But not now.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Watty blows the dust off:

Er, yes - still here. We've had birthdays and grandparental visitations, and I appear to be suffering from some kind of chest infection, and *insert excuse of your choice here*

On Thursday, Conor attained the grand old age of 2 - much fun was had by all, especially the star of the show himself, who wandered round all day saying "My birthday, my birthday..." Very pleased with himself, he was.
And then on Saturday it was: The Village Carnival! Cameron was resplendent in kilt and sundry Scottish accessories and had a whale of a time sitting on the playgroup float - pictures to follow, if I can get them uploaded. Cue much exhaustion in the grown-ups. Something tells me this is going to be a regular feature of our lives from now on...