That time of the year…

I’m sorry that I’ve been ignoring you lately. It hasn’t been anything personal. Just, you know, been stupidly busy.

I could tell you how many hours I’ve worked this week, but that would be boring so I won’t.

We went to a gig on Thursday. It was absolutely brilliant – one of the very best ‘non-A List’ gigs I have ever been to.

Ever.

There might be a review forthcoming, over at the podcast website, I’ll link to it when it happens.

Back to the now.

We are going out for a meal tonight.

And tomorrow we are going up to the wilds of the Herefordshire/Worcestershire/Shropshire borders to visit Sophie’s parents.

It’s her mum’s birthday.

She’ll be 25.

No, I don’t know either. Must be some kind of time travel thing.

Anyway.

It will also be our wedding anniversary.

It seems as though it has just been a few weeks since we all congregated in Wales on that uncharacteristically cloudless and sunny January day.

I wish I could adequately describe how I feel about Sophie. I wish I could begin to tell her what she means to me.

But it is beyond my ability.

To use the cliché, Sophie is everything to me; as a wife, a friend and a lover she is as much a part of my life as I am.

Sophie is always supportive, no matter where my thinking has tried to lead me.

Everything I’ve tried and succeeded, everything I’ve tried and failed; Sophie has always been encouraging, never been scornful or dismissive.

As the wife of an equestrian she’s got up at hideously early O’clock and travelled all over this part of the country in my lorry with me and my horse. She’s been groom, assistant and nerve-calmer.

As the wife of a writer she’s been beyond helpful; been encouraging in both my character developments and plot devices, and always been ready to lend a hand to iron out clunkier dialogue segments.

As the wife of a muso she’s always been up for gigs, festivals and never said ‘no’ to spending weekends in a tent in the pouring rain. We’ve staggered home almost dead from tiredness, senses dulled, ears ringing, feeling totally washed-out and emotionally overloaded and Sophie’s always been as enthusiastic about everything as me.

As the wife of a guy with a childish sense of humour that stopped developing somewhere around the age of 12, we are almost joined at the hip. We howl with laughter at the same stupid things, we bawl our eyes out at the cinema at the same trash. Apart from vampire films, obv.

So, as I was saying, we’re going out tonight.

And I shall be in the company of the most gorgeous girl in the country.

As always.

Turn of a friendly card

I’ve had a Facebook ‘friend’ request.

From my daughter.

Which is sweet, it is an indication of the kind of relationship – and how close to each other we are within that relationship – that we have.

But I can be just the teensiest weensiest bit sweary.

Now and then.

That’s the only reason I was flapping around last night, examining the various security options that were open to me.

Eventually, and after a lot of thought on the subject, I’ve decided to stop faffing around with privacy.

I’ll just ease back on my, erm, forthrightness on Facebook.

Maybe it’s time I started growing up.

A little.

Not having a bath (and other Sunday night randoms)

Half an hour ago Soph said she was going for a bath.

Because it is Sunday, obv.

Anyway.

We are both still on the couch.

Listening to music.

So far we have heard three versions of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.

And ‘Every Breath You Take’ by Scala and Kolacny Brothers.

And ‘Nothing Else Matters’, also by Scala and Kolacny Brothers.

And ‘Creep’ (off of Radiohead – and yes, the version with the ‘F’ word!), also by Scala and Kolacny Brothers.

I don’t think I could listen to a full-on album. Their vocals are great for the first five or six minutes and then…

Meh.

But I really do wish they hadn’t chosen that Police song that we listened to earlier.

Sting doesn’t need the money.

Neither does Thom Yorke, obv.

But I do.

Oh.

I haven’t written any songs.

That’ll be why, then.

She’s gone now.

Soph.

To the bath.

With her iPod and an episode of The Archers podcast.

That leaves me down here.

Alone.

You know what’s going to happen, don’t you?

Me.

Downstairs.

By myself.

For fifteen minutes?

Yep.

The kettle’s going on.

And the Cadbury’s Caramel is coming out of the fridge.

I shan’t tell her, of course.

I shall dispose of the evidence – both solid and liquid – in a timely manner.

Oh.

Bugger.

I have taken so long chatting to Leigh and Matty B on Skype whilst also writing this that Soph is back from the bath.

She is wearing a bathrobe.

That’s handy.

And she’s shredding.

That’s not a euphemism.

And now she’s taken the BIG bar of Cadbury’s Caramel and put it back in the fridge.

Oh no.

I am undone.

That’s not a euphemism either.

And now she’s gazing at me with her best moo eyes and suggesting we go to bed.

See you tomorrow!

p.s. Sunday evenings are weird, aren’t they?

It’s a dangerous life; moving in transit

Sporting injuries. I’ve had a couple. During my first inter-school cricket match, I took a beamer to the face and had to retire from the wicket without offering a stroke. Many years later, whilst playing for a 2nd XI in the North Somerset League, I ripped a Quadricep during a gut-wrenching sprint to stop the ball from crossing the boundary. Because I couldn’t run fast until the wound healed, I was forced to spend the next seven matches fielding at Silly Point which is the most dangerous fielding position on the cricket pitch. Ironically, whilst fielding in that position I didn’t incur any injuries and somehow managed to take three wickets. I’ve only had one other sporting accident; when the horse I was riding struck a cross-country fence and I was catapulted out of the saddle, and the horse, for good measure, rolled on top of me and then, in his haste to get to his feet, shredded my leg with his steel-shod hooves. The injuries I got that day resulted in five operations and kept me on crutches for 8 months. But today, a new era in sports injuries has dawned. This evening Soph came home with a sporting injury.

the mother of all sporting injuries

To give you something to judge this horrendous injury against, here’s the other one.

A terrible injury, as you can see. And how did this dreadful wound occur, I hear you ask? She was playing… Rounders.

Recently I was in a Twitter conversation with Andy Johnson (@andyjohnsonuk) about British SciFi authors. Andy was raving about John Wyndham. I said I favoured Edmund Cooper (a much more prolific author, a more poetic writer and, in my view, a person in possession of a more challenging imagination). The trouble is, that started me remembering all of the Edmund Cooper works. And then, because my head works in this way, I drew up a mental list: The Top Five Edmund Cooper books. Number 1 was an easy choice. Transit (first published 1964). I’ve owned three copies of Transit. I lost one on a C-130 Hercules when we were deployed from Germany to Cyprus. I don’t know where I lost the second copy, but it was probably in Hong Kong or Singapore, or somewhere between the two. I know precisely where I parted company with copy number three. It was when I was moving from the company apartment in Manhattan to my first apartment which was on Madison Street, NYC. I lost a lot of stuff in that move, and learned a valuable lesson of having an itemised checklist! Anyway, a few nights ago I was so fired up by thoughts of Edmund Cooper that I went on Amazon and found a used copy of Transit for… wait for it, wait for it… £1. So I bought it. It arrived today. I’ve just opened the envelope and inside was…

transit, a scifi novel, by edmund cooper

As soon as it fell out of the padded envelope, Soph seized it. Because it *is* a book, after all. I looked at the front and said, ‘That’s the 1973 edition’. She flipped open the front cover, read the publication date and her mouth opened in amazement. Sometimes I know too much about things that I really shouldn’t.

A weekend planned – and unplanned

Yesterday, while I was driving back to the yard from Highclere Horse Trials, I had one of those ‘I’m going to fall asleep any minute now’ moments. I think it was the combination of not enough sleep last week and being out all day at Highclere. So I took a breather and tried to snap out of it but the tiredness only receded, it didn’t vanish. I diverted home, deciding that I was too tired to ride. I haven’t seen enough of the horses this week, it wasn’t an easy choice, but it was the sensible one.

Neighbours can be weird things. Last night ours were setting off fireworks – very loud ‘whooshing’ rockets. They sounded like teenagers – the neighbours, not the rockets. I’m beginning to wonder if the house is occupied by a bunch of students. I’ve tried to work out what they could be up to, setting off rockets, but can’t come up with any sensible answers. Apart from the fact that they’re selfish twats who don’t care about disturbing the peace and quiet that other people might be enjoying.

Daughter sent me an email yesterday afternoon; she asked if any schools near where I live specialise in drama and acting. She’s always been keen on following acting as a career. Evidently the schools in Spain don’t tick the right boxes any longer and she is now setting her sights further afield. I feel sorry for the rest of the world.

Daughter

Sophie’s laptop is throwing out WiFi connectivity drops. Yesterday evening I planned that I would go to Maplin to pick up a new PCI WiFi card on Sunday afternoon, and then go up to the yard to ride. And then we went to bed and eventually slept.

Insomnia landed at 1.20am. My throat was incredibly dry and I felt dehydrated; I’d love to know what I was up to for the first five hours of sleep. I went downstairs, drank two pints of water, did a little internetting for a couple of hours and went back to bed.

Waking at 9.15am feels just a little bit… sinful. 9.15 is so late to be waking up! I made us breakfast in bed, then I showered, shaved, teethed and then… went back to bed. We read, we did stuff, we fell asleep and I woke up at 2pm. So much for my going in to Maplin and riding plans! I tottered downstairs and started on some overdue webdesign and email stuff. About an hour later those same pesky neighbours started letting off fireworks again – another clutch of loudly ‘whooshing’ rockets. I hate people, sometimes. Soph tottered downstairs and we agreed that people are generally thoughtless twunts, and if they really needed to let off rockets they should do so in the privacy of their own home. And then I realised I was hungry, so second breakfast was had.

Beans on toast x4 and a cheese & onion roll

During the early morning awakenings I had an idea for a video promo for the podcast. I’ve started jotting down the ideas in a kind of ‘shooting script’ sort of way.  There are six scenes to be filmed, here are the first five:

  1. Shot of inside of empty pub
  2. Shot of inside of empty restaurant
  3. Shot of inside of empty library
  4. Shot of inside of empty car park
  5. Shot of inside of empty church

Ideally, I wanted a shot of an empty street scene for shot 5, but I’m not sure that’s achievable.

Advertising people talk shit. There was just an advert on the television that included the words, ‘Timotei searches the world for precious natural ingredients…’ – which, presumably, extends to ‘Timotei are going to rape the planet for, rip these precious natural ingredients out of their natural environment and cram these precious natural ingredients in to their distinctly average hair products’.  Because why else would Timotei include precisely that wordage in their advert? Really, is there any other conclusion to be reached? So here’s a message: Hey people, don’t buy Timotei products, they’re environmental rapists. Or perhaps no-one actually listens to the distinctly mediocre advertising wordage that is rammed down our televisions these days. Except me, obv. But if no-one listens, why are Timotei paying their advertising agency squillions of $s?

Losing it…

Children will always be children’, the television advert for the French dairy product said a few minutes ago. Do we need to write in, pointing out that children will not always be children? They will, in fact, grow up at some stage in their lives.

Speaking of growing up, I had an interview for a new contract on Thursday; there were two candidates. This evening I got the result. I am, apparently, just a little over-qualified. Hmmm…

Today the television has been on non-stop. With the sound off. Don’t ask me why, but it’s one of life’s little weirdnesses that I write better (and quicker) with the television on, but with the sound off. I compensate for the sound-offness by listening to music. I know! How weird? My brain has the temerity to produce better writing with the TV on but sound off, and needs to compensate by having the stereo on! Go figure. Three sets of reviews and a draft shooting script for the sitcom. Woo, go me. I have to big myself up, I’m a little bit put out at being denied a job because I am ‘just a little over-qualified’.

Soph’s gone kick-boxing with the lovely-but-slightly-loopy Gemma, this evening. It’s nice that they hang around together. I’m slightly fearful for the rest of us when two mentalists gather in such close proximity, though. I hope the world won’t spontaneously implode under the pressure of a hitherto uncatalogued physical pressure which will, in the future, be called ‘dark mentalism’.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I put out an update today that said I’m thinking of writing a TwitterPorn story. The idea is fairly simple, in a way it’s a kind of performance art: I’ll put out a single-word, once an hour, with the hashtag #pornstory. The words won’t make sentences, per se, but they will enable the reader to construct his/her own story around them. See what I’m doing? Getting the reader to introduce their own imagination as a component? Oh. Not impressed? I thought it was an interesting exercise in *reader* creativity. What do you reckon?

Yesterday, during an emergency visit to Tesco for milk (what the hell is it that we do with milk? Seriously! We go through gallons of the stuff), I *cough* accidentally picked up a jar of Sandwich Spread. Is there anyone else addicted to this wonder of the food world?

Apparently the television station Virgin 1 has been rebranded to ‘Channel One’. Such a shame that the on-air branding in the corner of the screen still says ‘Virgin 1’.

Allister and I are potentially recording the first of the ‘Unsigned World’ shows for UKHDRadio tomorrow morning. Scary stuff! Exciting, but scary.

What are you doing? You never call, you never write, you’re a constant worry to your poor old mother father sister brother friend…

Happy Birthday!

8am.

It is Soph’s birthday today.

Thirty-one.

31.

We’re sitting on the couch, Soph’s opening her cards and presents and I’m enjoying watching her facial expressions.

It’s like watching a child at Christmas.

With every card opened or present unwrapped, her expression lights up as if the best thing in the world *ever* is happening in front of her.

Thirty-one.

Going on ten.

🙂

Alone

Sophie has gone to her parents. Maybe for the weekend, maybe for longer.

Her words, that she needed to spend time alone to sort out her ‘fucked head’, really didn’t sound ironic when she said them, yesterday evening.

And yet no sooner was she heading towards the family who dote on her and love her and will treat her as if everything is all right and who won’t once ask her to consider what she’s doing to me, because she is the centre of their universe, not me, only when she was on her way did it dawn on me that I’m the one who is alone now.

But I’m not the one who needs to sort out his head.

I thought we’d pulled things together; there is no doubt that over the last year we have worked on our marriage and have drawn ourselves even closer to each other than we were before we hit troubled waters.

I thought we were good, that we were strong, that we were comfortable and comforting and, well, that we were a couple.

But yesterday evening, when she came home from work in tears and out of the blue she hit me with those words, my world tilted upside-down for the second time in a year.

So I’m in the house, alone, while she nestles in the bosom of her loving family.

Sleepless in Oxfordshire, for sleep, like a calm head, successfully evaded me all night long.

This hiatus might be for the weekend but I don’t know.

I don’t know what’s in her head.

I don’t know how, within the space of hours, we can go from a platform of love and laughter, conversation, companionship and easy comfort, to her walking out.

And wiping her feet on me, on the way.

Yes, I do feel like a doormat; I feel used and abused.

None of this is of my making.

But I’ve tried – oh God I’ve tried so hard – to deal with this and repair this, I’ve given so much to this relationship, and tried to restore the old qualities that were so brutally torn away.

But now.

Now I’m not sure how much more I can take.

The only thing that’s keeping me going is the horses, but I feel as if the heart has been ripped out of me.

‘Devastated’ doesn’t come close to describe the feeling of abandonment that surrounds me.

On music, horses, relationships and avoiding clichés

There’s a lovely track by American singer/songwriter James Casto called ‘Perfect Day’, in which James, an excellent lyricist, describes his charming ‘perfect day’ which, inevitably, revolves around the love of his life [1].

You might also remember a better-known song with the same title, ‘Perfect Day’, by Lou Reed, taken from his 1972 album Transformer.

Whilst the latter work highlights and romanticises Reed’s relationship with heroin, the former describes the writer’s depth of feeling for another person. So they’re both about a thing, an object of affection.

So I’ve been wondering why no-one has written a song called Perfect Day that describes a solo, self-contained day of self-indulgence?

Is it because companionship is our default position? Even the most miserable, curmudgeonly members of society (and no, I wasn’t thinking of the King of Curmudgeonism – yes, it is a word. I said so! – Van Morrison) have a thing, a person that we love; that we can’t imagine living our lives without.

Music, naturally, has always been a love of mine. And horses (though Tom is temporarily relegated from the top spot in my equine affections. But I’ve decided that I’m going to switch him back to the Bit I was using up until last week, to see if that gets things back to normal).

Anyway.

It is Sunday, but it also 31st January 2010.

On 31st January not that many years ago, Sophie and I drove from this place to Heathrow Airport and, via a series of links, were transported to this place.

It was, not wishing to use a cliché, the start of a journey for both of us, and in more ways than one. Not always an easy journey, sometimes with bumps and potholes, but an enjoyable journey nevertheless.

Happy anniversary Soph.

However, not wishing to plunge in to a dark pool of emotion, let’s take a sidestep over to today’s Independent On Sunday where this newspaper exposes the comedic underbelly of the world of Football Chanting, that strange method of communication that the people on the terraces use when they have something to say.

When goalkeeper Andy Gorams was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Celtic fans chanted ‘Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams’ to the tune of Guantanamera.

You have to laugh at both the jibbing and the use of music.

When Newcastle FC scored an away goal against FC Zurich, the geordies used Welsh hymn tune Cwm Rhondda to deliver the words ‘You’re not yodelling, You’re not yodelling any more’.

More clever use of music to deliver good humour.

Meanwhile in other news, it has been decided (not by me!) that it is now time for us to get up.  We’re going out for lunch. That bit was my decision.

So it’s time to shut down, hit the bathroom, get dressed and get out there.

Woo yeah baby, we’re so rock’n’roll.

[1]: You can listen to James’ work on his MySpace page, but how wonderfully self-effacing is the bio on his personal website which says ‘James plays piano like a drummer. And he sings like a drummer. Because he is a drummer’?

James Casto is a lovely guy. If you like what you hear and you drop him an email, he’ll probably write back to you.

Crash

Crash 1:
This morning my 18-month old Dell laptop refused to get out of bed and boot up. Again. You may remember it went tits up (to use the technical phrase) in October. This morning the bios started up but before it could draw breath it told me it was giving up what it was supposed to do because of a major shit problem. That’s not the precise error message but you get the picture. There was no Windows splash message, no nothing, just a screenful of 8-bit fatal error message. When I got in to the office I called Dell and explained, in words of one syllable, that I am a corporate account and that two such fatal failures on a mission-critical piece of hardware in less than 24 months are way beyond completely fucking unacceptable. The bottom line is that Dell are sending an engineer out to me tomorrow.

Crash 2:
On the way home this evening I saw an interesting accident just here. You see where the car is approaching the Give Way sign painted on the road junction? Well just there was a car transporter, one of those lorries that carry 8 cars, 4 on a lower deck and 4 on an upper deck. The lorry had been fully laden. It had evidently come banging down the road towards the junction much too quickly (the map doesn’t show it very well, it’s quite a steep downwards hill), realised he had to stop or slow, slammed his brakes on and the car at the front of the top deck slid half off, smashed backwards in to the cab of the lorry then crashed on its nose in to the road, then the lorry squashed it and ran over it. Messy. There were no other vehicles involved and the driver was shocked, but unhurt. But oh boy, the road was a total mess. It was all the more dramatic being dark, orange flashing lights on the recovery vehicles, blue flashing lights on the police car.

Crash 3:
As a result of Crash 1, I was running around the house like a headless chicken, before I left for work, trying to find my Windows and Office installation CDs. I failed in the finding. And I took it out on Sophie, in a snarling kind of way. Totally inexcusable. I spent the rest of the day feeling like shit because of my behaviour. The reason – look, I know that this is pathetic – is because Sophie is a manic OCD-er. Things vanish which is a two-way euphemism for being tidied. There’s no excuse for my behaviour, though. Completely unacceptable. Anyway, this evening I found the CDs so I’m prepared for Mr Dell to arrive and replace the motherboard and whatever else needs replacing. Yes the CDs had been tidied but I think the wider point is that I need to be far more organised in how and where I put things in the first place. So I’m going to work on that and I’m going to work on it with maximum effort. Because putting things somewhere and expecting them to be there a couple of months later might work for me, but it’s potentially unacceptable for the person I live with.

Still growing up, see?