Monday, 29 July 2013

It's such a perfect day

Feeling inspired by Robert MacFarlane’s book The Old Ways , which I had finished reading the night before, I set out on foot on Saturday morning towards the great metropolis that is Eastbourne for an art exhibition. I was accompanied on my wanders by the poetry of A F Harrold - Cats Are Better Than Fish - and, once the traffic got too loud for spoken word, Rebecca Pronsky’s Only Daughter album. I love Harrold’s over-the-top use of rhyme in his poems. The Plankton Party is a fun example.

Under a little time pressure because Dave was cycling to meet me near the Art, I took a ‘short cut’ through Ocklynge Cemetery when non-stop traffic prevented me crossing the road. It’s a beautiful place, serene and calming and I like that some areas are neatly kept whereas others are wildlife havens  - all tall meadow grasses and flowers. The route change turned out to be a mistake though as the top pedestrian gate to the cemetery was open and the map showed exits, but, depressingly par for the course, the lower gate was securely padlocked with no obvious alternate way out. Back up the hill again then!

Dave and I liked Barry Wilson’s paintings at the Birley Centre although he was even less impressed by Dependent Rational Creatures at the Towner than I had been previously! We had a delicious lunch at the Barley Sugar cafĂ©. Dave had garlic mushrooms on toast with delicate flakes of cheese and I had a salami, Emmental and gherkin sandwich. The bread was particularly good, very fresh and with a good flavour made by the Lighthouse Bakery?

On to +Waterstones where we struggled to find a second book to take advantage of their buy-one-get-one-half-price deal. Then Dave decided to set off home as the sky was darkening and the forecast rain looked imminent. It pretty much was. I just got to the +Oxfam GB bookshop door as the deluge began. Dave was still mid-journey and got drenched. Oops! Five book purchases later – always an interesting selection at Oxfam if you don’t mind your books second-hand – and rain was still pouring so I legged it across Grove Road to Beanzz.

I hadn’t been in since the cafe changed hands a short while ago, so was pleased that it still has the same welcoming atmosphere and high standard of coffee. For once, I managed to resist their cake – I had only recently had lunch. Beanzz is hosting an exhibition of John Hesse photography as well as showing four large Gillian Toft paintings. I hadn’t knowingly seen Hesse’s work before so need to do a bit of research for a +Theatrical Eastbourne post. It was sweet that when another customer popped out for a smoke, the staff rushed up with an umbrella for her to borrow. I finished my coffee as the rain ceased so I walked back home too. I loved seeing water vapour rising from walls and roads making them appear to smoulder. Plus I spotted happy sunflowers peeping over a fence which made me smile.

The evening saw us driving through yet more rain to The Palmeira in Hove (actually) for a sold-out Tom Russell gig. He is an amazing songwriter whose lyrics are about very different subjects to the norm. Several songs have a strong Mexican-Spanish vibe to them and the album we recently downloaded has great brass instrumentation. Sadly Tom had not brought the brass band with him but was instead accompanied by talented guitarist Thad Beckman. We hadn’t seen either musician before. Their harmonies were gorgeous and Tom has great stage presence – “Bastardos!” It’s a little bit of a trek, but I’ve Liked the Palmeira’s Facebook page. They specialise in Americana music and we will no doubt want to know about other musicians playing there.

So, in one day, I can tally eight miles walked, three art exhibitions visited, five books queued (plus borrows from Dave), one poet appreciated, one album marched to, one gig danced through, two cafes and a pub patronised, and one soggy boyfriend (now dried out!) consoled.

Love my life!

Thursday, 25 July 2013

I just found another Kickstarter project to back

photo by Rachel Ries 
I love Kickstarter! So far I have backed six projects, three of which have reached their funding goals, two of which haven't and one I backed today which still has 28 days to go - exciting times.

Local-to-me documentary film The Moo Man had a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund its UK cinema release. Two of my favourite Austin musicians Devon Sproule and Sam Baker have both turned to Kickstarter to help with their most recent albums and now I discover through Anais Mitchell that Brooklyn songstress Rachel Ries is fundraising through the platform for her new album Ghost Of A Gardener.

We saw Rachel sing at the Blind Tiger Club in Brighton when she accompanied Anais on the Young Man in America tour in 2012 but this is apparently the first music of her own in five years. Ghost Of A Gardener also features the Austin contingent of Devon Sproule, Paul Curreri, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin - all favourites of mine.

Please pop over to Kickstarter, check out Rachel's music and help out if you like what you hear!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Why are men so frightened of lone female runners?

Yesterday evening, about 7pm in full daylight, I was jogging home from the Birley Centre. Two car drivers slowed to blast their car horns as they passed while their passengers screamed insults. This was followed by fading hysterical laughter as I jumped with surprise and they sped away. This is a depressingly regular occurrence. Most of my runs will be punctuated at least once and it’s wearying to say the least. The highly original shout of ‘Run, Forrest!’ is most common, but I also get personal attacks. I know I’ve got a ‘fat arse’. I’m running to get rid of it. I’m definitely not ‘too old for that' or 'darling’ and what the hell has it got to do with them anyway? Talking to other runners gets resigned agreement and shrugs of ‘what can you do’. As anti-social behaviours go, this one apparently has to be accepted but I don’t understand why it happens in the first place.

The beepers obviously feel threatened in some way or they wouldn’t feel the need to lash out but what is it about an overweight, middle-aged woman jogging that inspires the blare of car or van horns and yelling? Why not just ignore her?

It only seems to happen when there are two or more males travelling together, presumably egging each other on for ‘courage’, and they must have a vehicle so they can speed away safely before I can react. There’s never the risk that I might catch up with a beeper. I was once yelled at by a group of teenagers on bicycles, but again all males and able to make their escape quickly had I fired back. This is why I believe the essential motivation is fear. Other people walking, in their gardens or even sitting outside the pub might swap nods and smiles or comment on the weather but they don’t lob insults! Other runners, who simply by doing the same exercise are far better qualified to critique me, never do.
Other criteria: 1) I must be alone or maybe with one other female runner. I don’t remember it ever happening when I’m near a male runner. Perhaps I’m mistaking ‘safety in numbers’ and it does happen to lone male runners too - let me know! – but it seems that appearing to be ‘chaperoned’ keeps the beepers quiet. 2) The vast majority of beepers are young or middle-aged. I could understand if it was purely older men, brought up in more bigoted times, but that argument isn’t true.

Is it my apparent independence that is so threatening – some throwback belief that women shouldn’t be out alone?
Is it simply that I’m exercising and they don’t so I should be knocked back – guilt on the beepers part for their laziness? But I don’t get beeped when I’m walking and that’s exercise too.
Is it the admittedly slightly ridiculous sight of an unfit person jogging that tips beepers over the edge? Do fit runners get the same abuse?

Seriously, what is the point?

Friday, 19 July 2013

Me, a Paragraph Planet author

I also dabble with writing other than blogging - have I mentioned that before? Probably! I have been lucky enough to have two of my submissions accepted to the wonderful world of Paragraph Planet which, if you haven't come across it before, is a website which publishes a daily 'paragraph' of exactly 75 words. It's curated by one man, Richard Hearn, who I believe is based in Brighton. Submitted by many writers, professional and amateur, the variety of work is incredible and I am constantly amazed by how the rigid form can produce such different results. If I can get a third piece published, I can apply to have my own Author Page on the site!

Writing exactly 75 good words is nowhere near as easy as it sounds! For me, writing around 45-50 words is relatively straight-forward but I then find myself having to pad out the rest and this makes the end result feel sluggish. The website guidance suggests that the best paragraphs start out longer and are tightly edited - and therein lies the skill! I need longer ideas! Below are four paragraphs that I have actually completed - I've started more but they fizzled out. The first two didn't make the cut, the second two did. Although I am personally proud of them all, reading them together now, I can clearly see the difference in quality.

The first one, from mid-April this year, was inspired by our prospective caravan purchase. We hadn't yet found Bailey but were seriously searching and the paragraph reflects the themes of escape and freedom that this signified. The whimsicality is quite unlike me generally but at the time of writing, I was anchored both by Mum's terminal cancer and by the sheer amount of planning and cash needed to realise our dream. The thought of simply driving away towing our home was as a fairytale.

Are we hoping or dreaming or simply wishing? Which is real enough to survive? Gossamer threads of desire sped out from starry eyes. We fear their withering from lack of attention but they will suffocate with too tight a clutch. Our monochrome lists are given life by hope. Drab planning sustained by the dream. Fairy dust and glitter and fervently spoken magic words. If we can just find enough sparkle, we will smother the truth.

The second was written about a fortnight ago, a couple of days prior to the glorious sunshine we now have. It is yearning for summer, pure and simple! I particularly love the imagery of the lawnmower orchestra and the curtains.

Where are you sultry days? Lawnmower orchestras tuning up? Leather, willow, polite applause. Butterflies dancing, a solitary bee. Fragrant dawns of jasmine and honeysuckle. Blue and blue and blue. The almost not there squelch of ice cream hitting tarmac, distraught wails, ice water shrieks. Sauteed skin, pebble dashed legs. Observant gulls' screams, airborne fighters dive-bombing for abandoned chips. Stifling sleepless nights with all windows flung open, their lank curtains hanging sullen for lack of breeze.

This is my first ever completed paragraph and it got published (Aug 31st 2012) - so exciting still! Its dark, seedy images are very much my style and I wrote and edited it in an afternoon. The ideas flowed swiftly and were then hacked back to get down to 75 words. Writing hadn't felt so inspired for ages.

Wait until sundown. Change of the day. Monochrome eddies of leaves and newsprint. Crisp packets race. Scuffed heels snapping. Collars turned up. Isolated rain spots between chewing gum patches. Disembodied shouts. Bark. Yelp. Reflected neon in gutter mirrors. NEPO. DESOLC. Congealing chip fats cut through with diesel. Oversweet perfume. Yesterday's beer. Lucozade glow beneath a sodium spotlight. Nylon ladders veil a black inked snake. Tyres scrape a kerbstone. A windows lowers. A door swings back.

The final paragraph here, which also got published (Nov 28th 2012), describes a slow Friday afternoon. I was alone in the office with little to do and even less inclination!

Three clocks, side by side. They do not tick or beep, but discreetly measure the passing afternoon, the soporific stretch between lunch and tea when the air is a fraction too warm and the work a fraction too dull. I observe. Two clocks change the minute together. I count. The third waits nineteen beats. I count again. Nineteen. A different pairing almost exactly alternate their flashing seconds. I will them to synchronise. They irritate me.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Our lovely anniversary weekend continued

Orchard Farm campsite, Bosham
 with taking Bailey away for two nights at Bosham, near Chichester – hence the no presents ‘rule’ mention earlier. Orchard Farm campsite is very peaceful but basic –water tap and electric hookup provided, own sanitation essential. No shop or club room onsite although there's a Co-Op close by in the village and nice-looking pub within a few minutes walk - we didn't actually go in. There's very little light pollution so a fantastic place for stargazing. It's also a caravan storage place so there were loads of vans but very few with people! We got there for lunch on Saturday, having avoided the Festival of Speed traffic, and met up with our friends Barbara and Andy who had not only saved us a shady spot under trees but also made a delicious chicken and mango salad that was perfect after the stuffy, sticky drive. I drove all the way and only really messed up once caused by indecision approaching a roundabout. There’s a weird creaky noise when we go slow though –probably best get that checked out.

Saturday afternoon we all went on a boat trip from Itchenor and saw hundreds of little and not-so-little boats. It felt as though everyone in the area must own their own vessel and we were left wondering ‘what recession’?! There are also loads of cyclists. It’s mostly flat countryside and they seem well catered for with cycle lanes, off-road routes and a tiny, cute ferry. Dave as a tad jealous I think and would take his bike if we go there again.
Saturday night I shared cooking with Andy. My contribution was Turkey Tagine that had been slow cooking all afternoon. It was just as tasty as if it had been done in the tagine and I’m definitely going to make the slow cooker a caravan essential. We weren’t sure due to the weight of the ceramic crock, but it was so easy to leave it safely doing its thing while we went out and I appreciated arriving back to the aroma of dinner all ready. Andy did a fruited couscous with chopped dates, apricots and pistachios. This will probably be one of my next recipe posts!

Dave steeling himself to start dinner!
The whole area is perfect for gentle strolls around picturesque harbours and spying on how the other half live on Bosham Hoe which is how we spent our Sunday. I’m happy to recommend Anchor Bleu in Bosham for lunch –good food, fast and friendly service, and they have Fentimann’s ginger beer! There’s an extensive arts and crafts shop on the harbour front where I managed to avoid spending any money despite many temptations. As it turned out, Dave drew the short straw with Sunday night cooking (salmon and pesto penne) as juggling two pans on the hob is going to take a bit of practice. He says it’s necessary to clear the area of anything that’s not needed before you start. And I must perfect doing pasta and rice in the microwave properly – like the slow cooker this will save our precious gas when abroad, and help utilise the limited space to its best advantage too.

And now it’s Monday and our wonderful weekend is over :-( 
Worthing was a nightmare of heat and traffic and it took us two hours to get from Bosham to Polegate. I’d taken a half day and did still manage to get into work early though. Nearly kept walking to the seafront but thought I’d better not!

Wonderful 10th anniversary weekend started

with these beautiful flowers. We'd agreed not to get each other pressies but naughty boyfriend did anyway!
I love getting flowers and lilies give the house a gorgeous fragrance :-)