10 June 2006


Yesterday was a bad day for shortcuts. Driving back from Portsmouth I took the road I shouldn't have. I suppose you could say it was, much to my chagrin, the road more travelled. My parents snoozed away, exhausted from their holiday, and unaware of my navigation errors. Mom woke up in time to give me another shortcut, which turned out to be nothing of the sort. Thrown by this I made an equally bad decision and the final 5 miles home took 30 minutes.

This morning I untied a knot that had been tied for 12 years and found some pics from last summer that I like but had never posted. They're from Mull - I was there for a wedding. I posted only one pic then, the first pic I'd ever posted on this blog. Anyway, I found these while doing a bit of a photo clear up. The top and the bottom are from Craignure in the South and the cow (love the cow) is on the single-track road from Craignure to Tobermory (lovely village, rubbish whisky). She was just chillin' and chewin' as we drove past, not a fence in sight. Brilliant.

I want to jump in the car and shoot back up north in great haste, doing 105 on the M6 Toll Road and breaking only for the fantastic Westmorland Farm Shop at Tebay Services. Fuelled by their amazing pies I'd stop to make the required hellos in Linlithgow, St Andrews and Balmorino and then north. I was brought up in cities and I'm comfortable in London but comfortable is dangerous and not necessarily belonging. Out north and west to Mull and Skye and Raasay, north and east to Tain and Brora, then slowly south through the middle, stopping at Kinloch Rannoch to skip their perfect pebbles on their glass loch.

This afternoon I'll be writing and cursing the weather for tempting me. Next time I'll finish the book while the weather's still shite and the summer will be my reward. The Belfry is hot in the summer, sort of like a greenhouse with no plants and more bugs. Even the birds are too hot to chirp.

PS Crushed and disappointed that Cars has opened in the States and not here. Here we must wait until 28/7. Bummer.

08 June 2006

lawn ornaments

It's Summer, and with the season comes groovy culture in every nook and cranny. Some is obscure, hidden in odd galleries and discovered only with perseverence, luck and ingenuity. Others are signposted by 30 ft tall pregnant women in bronze. Today I attended the latter.

The pics are from the forecourt at the Royal Academy.

Virgin with Child by Damien Hirst Sir Joshua Reynolds all decked out in his summer gear.

I can't remember the artist or the name of the piece, but I liked it because it reminded me of climbing behind and under the bleachers at the little league fields on Beacon Hill when I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

I also went to see X-Men 3 this afternoon. Good popcorn fun - leave your brain at the door.

And apparently my running attire is a fashion nightmare. Who'd have thought?


I finished One Hundred Years of Solitude last night. Well, this morning, at about 0220. The trouble with reading a classic so long after its acceptance as a classic is that, if it is worthy of its praise, then everything that can be said about it has been said. Chiming in with the literati, nodding sagely in agreement, seems silly, arrogant and pointless. And this novel deserves the praise heaped upon it. I drank the last 100 or so pages as one parched, desperate to slake my thirst. The pages are like over-saturated technicolour photos, colours bleeding into each other, from vibrant solids to whimsical pastels swirling in time with the rhythm of the swamp in the background. It left me haunted, staring at the ceiling of my room, unable to succumb to exhaustion.

I've already started Love in the Time of Cholera.

wedding bumps & soccer balls

Any wedding tradition that has the bride and groom bounced up and down on chairs, holding on to a napkin, is good by me. Danny and Laura seemed illuminated on the day, which is a good way to be at your wedding, and much fun was had by all. Until the bar closed at 10. At which point pilfered bottles and a new venue were required. So we all got on the bus and headed to the hotel bar and drank until the much more civilized hour of 2 in the morning. I think we went to another bar beforehand. I have vague memories of drinking pints of Guinness in quick succession. Guinness in the States is served too cold and lacks creaminess.

The next day I went with my folks to see my brother's family, feeling a little bit hungover. I didn't go for my run that morning. My eldest niece, Katie, had reached the finals of a local soccer tournament (this is Massachusetts, so it's soccer, not football) and we all went, watched and screamed in maniacal support for the Wilmington under-13's girl's team. Did wonders for my hangover. Sarah, Katie's younger sister, got all face painted up and hollered as loud, if not louder, than everyone else. Bound to swell with uncle pride, I bellowed along and took lots of photos of Katie kicking the ball and sometimes her opponents. It was a very impressive match and she played a hell of a lot better than I ever did. And she won, of course, and I remembered being 11 years old and winning the local little league championships and how awesome it was to get my trophy. Getting a public speaking trophy at summer school never quite equalled it.

That's the last of my Boston chat.

07 June 2006

very clever & not-so clever (updated)

I liked this. Hope you do too.

Fever's abated, throat feels better and I've kicked the lemsip habit.

This I find unsettling. Many people far smarter than I seem fine with it, but I still think there's something wrong with giving a child prozac.

06 June 2006

blurry bond

The name's Bo- oh, never mind.
It's childish to take your picture in a mirror, especially just because you're wearing black tie, but I don't care. It's the only picture of me at the wedding in Boston and I think the blurriness does great things for my sex appeal. The shiny reflection on my bald pate does not.

The fever's back. Last lemsip of the day to come. I resent rationing it due to potential so-called side effects.

Three a day.


And the Yankees clobbered us last night.

Boo too.

05 June 2006

the pub who would be king

Planning adventures gets easier the less grounded in reality you become.

For instance, I started scribbling something about a history & natural history voyage around the Caribbean (™®© and all that - go get your own idea), checking out wrecks and looking for treasure while examining how the sealife adapts and then absorbs man's stuff into its own, building reefs and hiding menacingly in old portholes (and it's always a moray eel looking menacing in old portholes - why is that?). It would have to be done on a sailboat. This sort of expedition requires a respect for the past and elegance that a motorised gin-palace is incapable of - it would have to be a classic schooner fitted out with all sorts of kit that goes 'beep' and a camera on the hull. Money is no object because I don't have any.

The more I scribbled, the more lemsip I drank, the less interested I became in natural history and the more interested I became in finding huge amounts of Spanish gold and retiring somewhere sat on a great big pile of dubloons. A modern day Jack Sparrow and Han Solo type, but with better hygiene and no laser guns. My fever ran high at this point and Gabriel García Márquez did nothing to reground me in reality. Buccaneers in flip-flops, my crew and I would strike fear in the hearts of our enemies (few) and bring smiles to the faces of our friends (many). We would haul ropes dramatically and squint meaningfully at the sun-drenched horizon. Women would swoon as we stepped ashore. I would crown myself king of some small jewel of an island conveniently situated in international waters and take out an advertisement in the International Herald Tribune for a suitable queen to accompany me on my next set of adventures.

Then I passed out and slept for some time. I drove my folks to Portsmouth and made it back in one piece. I looked over my notes and sighed, scribbling down some more realistic adventures before starting some real work on my book. Web procrastination got the better of me for a time and I discovered Piel Island in Cumbria. Well, I didn't discover it - it's been discovered for ages - but I found out they're looking for a new king. It turns out that the landlord of the Ship Inn on Piel gets the title of King of Piel Island. That. Is. So. Cool. That there're castle ruins on the island is a bonus. Sadly, reality rears its ugly head and the Register points out the shortcomings:
"potential landlords should be warned that it has no mains 'leccy or phone line, is accessible by ferry only on summer weekends, and if you want to get out of the place in a hurry you'll have to wait until the tide goes out and make a dash for it across the exposed sands. On a tractor or similar, naturally."
Nevertheless, ideas have taken seed, the book will be finished and adventures will begin.

But first, a bit more lemsip I think. And some sleep.

mug of happy

How can one not recover when one drinks from the happy face mug? And eats chocolate. Chocolate, lemsip and the happy face mug will make me healthy and happy again. Respect the happy face mug, for it is happy. And happy china is a good thing. Not so sure about the chocolate though.

04 June 2006


I am
reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude - it's brilliant, even better when you have a fever
listening: To the email alerts on the computer in the room next door - must get my iPod
drinking: Lemsip - my dad went out and got more. yay dad
writing: blog nonsense and the book
lying: on the guest bed, which has been my refuge for most of the day
hoping: I feel better by morning
pondering: a party in July
rejoicing: because I found my favourite Red Sox hat
regretting: buying two new Red Sox hats in Boston
reasoning: that one can never have enough Red Sox hats and that in buying the new ones, I ensured that I would find the old one, which I love more
realising: I shouldn't bore my readership so much with the Red Sox - but they won tonight, and the Yankees lost. heh
planning: my new set of adventures
driving: my parents to Portsmouth tomorrow
longing: for lovely, beautiful, single women to lavish me with affection. Preferably after I drop my parents off in Portsmouth.

all out of lemsip

Friday night - I sit down for dinner with some old friends. Nothing fancy, just a Pizza Express on Victoria Street. As I pick up the wine list a small tickle dances at the base of my throat and for a split-second my face flushes. Bollocks.

Yesterday - pick dad up at the airport with my throat feeling like wet gravel. I sound slightly rough but am sort of all together. Once we get home I have a lemsip and take a nap. I'm supposed to go to a BBQ down Camberley way and hope that lemsip + nap = cured. Lemsip + nap = better rested and no worse, and that was good enough for me, so I hopped in the volvo and shot down to Camberley listening to The Editors at high volume with the window down and sunroof open. About as close as I'm ever going to get to being a boy racer. The BBQ is lovely - nice weather, a bouncy castle, giant connect 4 and sumo suits. There's also loads of booze that I'm not touching for sake of both throat and driving. I catch up with old mates who look bewildered that I'm not drinking. Their shock at me driving as well brings a smile to my face. The wet gravel is drying out and quite sharp now, so I make my excuses (and sadly miss the fireworks) and drive home to console a recently jobless friend. The recently jobless friend is surprisingly chipper due to the 8 pints of the day and is excited about the blank canvas of the future. I drink pints of oj and lemonade. Closing time hits and I walk home feeling as though my head is slightly seperated from the rest of my body.

Today - dad picks mom up from the airport. My first words this morning sound like they come from a consumptive seal, eviscerating my throat to the point of tears. I keep the curtains shut because it's a beautiful day and I'm supposed to be going to Clapham for a nice Sunday lunch and if I open the curtains I'll try to go out and feel the worse for it. I'm drinking Lady Grey with honey and lemon, a concoction so bitter I feel it must at least build character if not cure me. And I'm all out of lemsip.

clam chowder

Childhood hypocrisies are the best hypocrisies, as they are shameless. One of my favourites was my attitude towards seafood. I abhorred it, believing it something to be avoided even at the risk of rudeness. When my mother wrote a seafood cookbook, I shunned her and ran screaming away when she wanted me try a new recipe she was testing. At the same time, my favourite soup was clam chowder, I would devour an order of fried clams with tartar sauce at the Hull Yacht Club and would proudly munch on whatever catch there was on the rare occasions I went fishing. I boasted that I loved eating shark (one of the few fish I would eat). The irony was lost on me as it would have been on any child. I didn't bother to reconcile the two things in my mind - that while uninterested in most seafood some of it pleased me. Or the greater truth, that if I'd bother to try seafood I would have liked it. But no, mediation and rationalising were beyond me and childhood prejudice has a strong grip.

These thoughts came to me as I had the best clam chowder ever last Wednesday lunch time. I was at B & G Oysters in South Boston. Now, clam chowder's a pretty homely, comfort-food affair, and there are probably a thousand restaurants throughout New England boasting the world's greatest, but this was different. It was so good I asked if the chef had a cookbook - I wanted the recipe. Richly textured but not too starchy, the potato chunks still firm, massive pancetta lardons and perfect whole clams with sauteed onions and garnished with fresh spring onion; pretty fancy for clam chowder. It was served after a few oysters on the half-shell and before a Maine lobster sandwich. I'd eaten lobster for dinner the night before. I love seafood. And I think I always loved seafood. For some reason though, I used to hate the idea of seafood. And as such hated all seafood.


Is this a pointless post? I don't know. But I'm not feeling so good, and the mind wanders at such times. Some would suggest chicken soup for such malaise, but I think I'd rather have the chowder.