05 August 2006

Stopped Clocks, Yaks & Plans of Genius (all leading to a Belfry Party sequel)

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. It's a cliché. Everyone knows it. But sometimes it really happens. Sometimes you glimpse that moment when it all works, when the last piece of a puzzle fits in, when the cog turns and the bells chime, in spite of everything. One of my best friends, Marcus, is very clever. But his powers of logic fail him. Frequently. In this sense, the clock is stopped.

Well, maybe not stopped - that's a bit harsh.

But the minute hand and the hour hand rarely meet. If the hour hand is his inherent intelligence, then the minute hand is logic, and as such they only cross over and point in the same direction at midnight and noon. So the clock isn't stopped. It moves normally. But unlike a clock, it's not on a schedule. It's erratic, unpredictable, sometimes uncommon and sometimes occurs in quick succession. When it does happen, when both the minute hand and hour hand point towards twelve, it's beautiful. It's like Hannibal from the A-Team loving it when a plan comes together. Well it happened tonight.

Marcus works for a luxury travel firm. And no, he can't give you any freebies. He enjoys his work but it causes a dilemma. When Marcus was at St Andrews, he founded the Tibet Society, devoted to providing aid to Tibetan refugees in India and Nepal and raising awareness of the the cultural repression happening in Tibet. He started Tibet Aid, a live-aid-type-thing, to raise money for the Tibetan Relief Fund. He wore t-shirts with the Tibetan flag. Sometimes he'd claim to be Buddhist. He was into Tibet, in a big way. And this company he works for, well, it sells holidays. Holidays in China. This doesn't sit well with him. He fears karma, but he loves his job. Then there's this luxury trainline that's just been built, from China to Tibet, that his company wants a major piece of - his karma is in turmoil.

And we know it. We give him terrible grief about selling holidays to China when only 3 years ago he passionately derided their human rights abuses and the cultural obliteration of Tibet. He tells us about the trainline deal and we continue to harangue him, as only mates can do. We make fun of the email he sent out trying to raise money for yaks in Tibet, calling it a small and insignificant placation of karma. Because what can a yak do?

But it was noon and midnight all at the same time, the Prime Meridian and the International Date Line met for one time only and Marcus had a plan. He reads this story - a story about how the trainline is threatened by subsidence, gobal warming and wild life. What wild life? Yaks (and yes, that's really odd, but true). They even contribute to the subsidence.

So Marcus decides to get the office to sponsor a charity. A charity devoted to buying yaks for Tibetan nomads. Nomads that roam the plains and steppes and mountainsides that the trainline crosses. The office doesn't know this. They're travel operators. They know bugger all about yaks that subside trains. They just think they're giving the poor a dumb animal. So they buy a yak for £85. It was a pretty successful venture - the office were all chuffed with their humanitarian effort and Marcus appeased karma, knowing that the yak he bought may well contribute to undermining the trainline. He wants them to buy more. They probably will.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Then there was the rat-tail. It was so dreadful, seated at the table next to us, that I had to surreptitiously take a photo. I've never done anything like that before. I felt sort of awful about it, but the rat-tail was more awful - enough to justify my own moral compromise. It was my version of buying a yak for nomads. By taking a picture and publishing it, I may prevent someone else from make so drastic a mistake. It was my duty. I don't have any hair myself, and to see someone treating what they have so terribly - well, it was upsetting. Upsetting and frightening. Why frightening? Well, that's a woman.

So fueled on butch rat-tails and yak tales, we came back to the new Belfry and drank beer and looked at old photos and everyone missed the last tube home. My second night in the new house and I'm already causing trouble.

04 August 2006

A New Belfry

Bright sides outshine grumpiness and malcontent. Slowly but surely, boxes are emptied and broken down, placed aside for collection by the movers. Soon the remote controls will be found and the television will show the dreadful news from around the world. Somehow we'll find space for all of the kitchen stuff. I'm not sure how. A six foot ten camp family friend claims it's a tardis; far larger on the inside than it seems on the outside. He calls it a blank canvas.

There is a new Belfry, complete with an ensuite roof terrace. There are, as far as I can tell, no armies of spiders and bugs waiting in the shadows to fight their war in the nooks and crannies. There are no low-lying beams waiting to cause irreversible brain damage. The floor doesn't splinter when I roll my desk chair over it. No trees claw their branches along the roof tiles. What it lacks in rustic charm and idiosyncrasies it makes up for in storage space and creature comforts. But, as nice and comfortable as it is, it's not it's not my Belfry. My time here is limited. Borrowed, even. So I best take advantage of it while I can.

No more food poisoning either, which is nice.

And The Blind Boys of Alabama cover of Spirit in the Sky is tremendous. I may have mentioned that before, but I've rediscovered it and am loving it.

Some views from the new Belfry

03 August 2006

small update

We've moved. There are a lot of boxes to unpack. The fridge doesn't work. I've got food poisoning.

That's about it for now.

01 August 2006

bright sides

The hotel where I'm staying has a bar called 'The Polo Lounge' - it has saddles for bar stools. So I sat on a saddle at a marble bar and drank beer. When no one was looking, I squeezed my thighs a bit and pretended to ride. Dork? Certainly. Obscenely tacky? Absolutely. Was the barman named Ralph? Sadly, no. But it was a bright part of the day, and I'm not going to take those for granted.

31 July 2006

to whom it may concern,

Welcome to the Belfry. Well, I call it the Belfry. Some call it the shed, others the wendy house and I know one person who calls it the studio. But for me it's the Belfry. I thought I'd leave a few tips to help introduce you to the place.

First of all: mind your head. The beams are low. I have several bumps and at least one bout of unconsciousness to prove it. There are only two beams, but even if there were only one in the corner, I probably would have smacked my head against it anyway. They take awhile to get used to. Or at least I think they do. I never did. Up to the very end I continue to crack my cranium against them. I don't mind it as much now. At first I was livid, reading up on engineering and architecture, working out means of replacing them. But they have outlasted me and had the last laugh. It was me knocking my head against them after all - they didn't reach down and batter me. So, after much time, I've forgiven them. Perhaps you will too. Maybe you're short, and don't give a shit. I don't know. But sometimes you need a knock on the head, and they're more than willing to give it to you.

Secondly: don't be arachnophobic. They outnumber you. By a bunch. This is a good thing because there are a lot of bugs. I don't know why, but maybe being at the bottom of the garden has something to do with it. You could spend every day you spend here dusting away spider webs but when you wake up in the morning, there will be more of them. They won't hurt you. I've never had a spider bite, and considering how many of their homes I've destroyed, I figure I've got some karma backlash coming to me. So relax. And maybe try to see how many different ones there are. Because there are a lot. And you probably will only swallow three a year in your sleep tops. Maybe four.

Thirdly: be careful of the staircase. I know that sounds odd, but it's pretty hard and very easy to stub your toe against. The spiral can mess with your spacial awareness. That was my excuse anyway. Better than admitting to just being clumsy.

Fourthly: buy a fan. It gets hot in the summer. Pulling the shades down on the skylight is also advised.

Fifthly: get used to the noise. The trees and those that live in the trees are in constant contact with the roof, leading to an orchestra of odd and unsettling noises that will drag you from the deepest and most peaceful of sleeps. It can be quite disconcerting. In the twilight of half-sleep, where you can't tell the difference between dreams and reality, it can be terrifying. That stops with time. You'll learn to appreciate the shade in the bedroom, and the whisper of the leaves against the roof tiles. It will take awhile though, and there may be nightmares.

Sixthly: use the beer fridge. And remember to shut it.

Seventhly: enjoy it. It's quite a special little building. It was built as an artist's studio. It's been used as a gallery. I've written a big chunk of a novel here. It's a creative place. It's bit hidden. It's not all yours; the bugs, spiders and trees claim some of it, but that's a good thing. In the summer, if you leave the skylights open to get a bit of breeze, the place will be covered in seeds from the tree above. Sometimes it hits you on the head. Sometimes it stubs your toe. You'll swear at it, and then probably hit your head again.

It's all one. And so I leave it to you. Though I must take a small piece with me; just enough to continue my chronicles.

30 July 2006


I haven't fiddled with this - just a bit of a long exposure and unsteady hand, but I like the effect. It feels appropriate with the move and, well, everything really. It's a bit blurry.

cloud dork

A thunderstorm retreats to the east.

gloriously useless

I'm packing and throwing loads of stuff away, but still find stupid little things that tempt me to add to the massive pile of useless rubbish that clutters my life. Most of the Belfry is packed now.