Friday, 26 September 2008


Well, it's Friday now, and I'm back home feeling absolutely knackered. Poor me. Nice to be home though, and typing this on a 'keyboard of reasonable size' rather than the netbook I've been using the past 3 weeks. Nothing of any great interest has happened over the last few days except getting in touch with the Hospice in the Weald and talking to the lovely Lorraine there about the whole absurdity of this undertaking, and going for an eye test.

And now I'm wearing glasses. Weird, really. One day it's 39 years of nothing on my nose except intermittent shades, and now I've got the rest of my life with a prescription. Not a particularly vicious one, but illuminating enough to know that it's a permanent thing.

I went to Boots, had some odd bloke do some tests, and 3 hours and £115 later I'm gadding around town in specs. I think they suit me (I spent 4 weeks this afternoon trying on and wincing at every pair in the shop and ended up with what I hope were the pair that least made me look like a wide-faced moose), and they make a fairly startling difference to what I'm seeing. Anything over 6 feet away now has a woozy clarity to it - amazing to think I've been looking at such blurred edges for so long and never really noticing it.

I've been doing a lot of that thing you do when you try someone else's glasses on, lifting them up and down and going "Oooh..", though in this case it's not leaving me feeling both sorry for the poor sod who's stuck with the visual acuity of a chair and a little closer to losing my balance and throwing up. It's hard to explain so, though I'm fascinated by the whole thing (how do glasses work, really, when 1: they're just bits of glass plopped in front our your eyes and 2; the person that created your particular set only had 25 minutes and your fairly uncertain and non-commital speculation as to what was blurrier and how many dots you could make out? Imagine the opthalmic mis-calculations that have arisen when people have turned up for the test after a bottle of wine or two. "Can you actually see the letters at all, Mr Pilf? Or, the wall? Please, don't smoke.")

It's pretty eye-opening, anyway.

Also, I meant to mention on Monday, I finally caught up with my friend from the North, Julie. Which was excellent. As I was kind of in the area we were going to try and meet up on Saturday night and go out for few, but the schedule complained so it was just a few drinks on the coast at lunchtime, but great nonetheless. Funny how people change and yet stay the same. In some cases this is encouraging and cool, and this was one of those cases. There's very few people who were not only there, back in the days of the Moonshots and all that, but also still in touch, so there were things and gigs and evenings to reminisce very happily about. One day I'll write a book about it all, and one of the very first drafts will be headed up Saltburn way (I can never remember the name of the actual town where she lives.) So hello Julie, if you are indeed Unruly, and tell Jessica I think she's a little corker. It's about time Tunbridge Wells beckoned again, I reckon. And hello Rob, too.. you were right about the oil, and a possible crisis was averted. Ta.

So, I spoke to Lorraine at the Hospice, and she's going to sort out sponsorship forms and, if I heard right, a running shirt and stuff. As she was one of the few people that didn't have to phone me back after they'd recovered when I told them of my plans, I am grateful to her for that, too. Martin, my friend and the bass player in my band and also, more pertinently, one of the main people behind Gazastock, which has done, over the years, much good in fundraising for this patently great cause [this is a gross understatement : in 8 years they have raised over £100,000, which is a staggering amount for something so local and so short-in-the-tooth, and which started so small - big chops to them, folks], went along to the Hospice last week with other members of the group who organize the whole Gazastock event to (amongst other things) formally hand over the proceeds from this year's event. And have a look around, at their kind invitation. He told me over the phone that he found the whole experience very moving and positive - given the nature of the job they do and the way it may be perceived by idle spectators. To put it succinctly, they do a lot more than provide simple comfort for the last little while of someone's time on earth.

All this, anyway, is making me more determined to sort this marathon thing out and do it right and NOT FAIL. If Ollie were here he'd be giggling by now, and by tomorrow evening at the latest he would have phoned me up, called me a nutter, laughed both of us silly about it and told me "Go for it, sunshine" repeatedly. Which I'm going to do. Not with a glass of white wine in my hand, unfortunately, cos that would be quite a hard thing to do - but I will definitely have one handy for afterwards.

You must, I hope, excuse me for getting all dramatic about it. I don't mean to make it sound like something extraordinary, or like I think that's what it is. Tens of thousands of people do the marathons of the world - hundreds of thousands of people - and I'd imagine a significant percentage of them do it for similar reasons. This particular set of reasons hardly deserves to stand out from all of them. But for me its the only set of reasons I've got and I'm keen on stating them as dramatically as possible, though stating them to who, I don't know. Just - if I can run the damn thing and raise some money for the Hospice I'll have achieved 3 things that appeal to me a great deal.

One, something completely unlikely, for me, and something to have worked hard for and completed. That's got to be worth something, I think. I really don't know because I don't feel I've done that yet.

Two, to raise a sum of money that I can put in someone's hands and they can use it for a specific and extremely worthwhile purpose, and for good.

Three, a tip of the hat to a lovely and cherished memory of a man, sorely missed.

So, sod it, the next post is going to be even more melodramatic and full of bathos. You might want to give it a couple of days.


Sunday, 21 September 2008

That's Scotland out of the way, then.

Been a bit fervid with my supermarket espionage today. Visited 13 stores altogether, I think, and I'm knackered. 

I'm somewhere in Lanarkshire, a place called the Abington Hotel, which is ok. Apparently I'm going to get a call from reception... which I've just got... and now I'm back from dinner. A steak from 'just up the road', I was told. I'm going to go and have a look at the cows just up the road in the morning and check they're not all sitting round a pool, eating McDonalds and knocking back biffa-bins of Tennants. It wasn't a very nice steak. It was riddled with fat and seemed to be up for a fight.

Anyway- this morning I mentioned the view from my hotel room in Dunbar. Here it is. Quite nice, as I said, though the picture as always does it little justice.

(Christ. I've just spent 20 minutes all over google trying to figure out a way to hyperlink some text from this blog to a jpeg - which I achieved through much frowning and grumbling. Now it turns out there's a link button on the page I'm typing, which of course there would be. So I'm stupid, then.)

Here, on the other hand, is the view from the beach back to my room. If you squint you can see a lamp-post in the middle of the frame.. my room is just under the bulb. The window's open to hopefully rid the room of stale smoke. (The picture is quite low-res, as most of these will be, because I'm on a remote internet connection and uploads take months.)

And here is the thing that I thought was a bloody great bit of too-early-in-the-morning wood, ho ho, but turned out to be a step that a Scottish mason was finishing off for the house next door. When I asked if I could photograph it, which in a lot of places would have charcoaled the words 'Be careful, I'm a little odd' on my forehead, he was chuffed to bits and brushed all the dust off before stepping about as far out of frame as the location would allow, so as not to clutter my vision (of what was, obviously, something he was pleasantly surprised and pleased had been recognised for the rather satisfying to the eye and heart piece of simple art that he knew it to be, but had learnt was rarely noticed by the rest of humanity.)

People in Dunbar, it would appear, are really very nice indeed. I only met, what, 6 of them? but that's enough for me make a solid impression these days. 

Here's something that vexes me. Satnavs. I don't know if they all do it, but the one I've got at the moment is beginning to upset me a little. Everytime I'm getting close to wherever it is I'm going it suddenly starts acting like the gayest barber in the world and wants to show me every angle possible of the last few hundred yards before my destination. 

If you can imagine the gayest barber in the world, and you've just presented him with a request for the sort of haircut he rarely encounters but which excites him tremendously because this kind of challenge is why he became a hairdresser in the first place - that's how my satnav reacts to the imminent resolution of our journey. "Is this the right angle, or would you rather something more oblique? How about seeing the approach from 30 miles above sea-level? No? Well, how's this? Virtually sub-atomic not for you? A little too close. Ok. We could always go for a mirror-image, or perhaps a kind of split-personality feel, you know, Amish one side and Brian May the other?" And then it tells me I need to do a u-turn. Today this was on a one-way street. I need to do a return, I ejaculated, and typed in the nearest branch of Halfords.

None of this, I am aware, has the remotest connection with the marathon. But I can't think of anything to say about that.

Dunbar morning.

I was woken this morning by some scottish, I'm guessing, workmen circular-sawing something or other at 7.30, which is a little odd as it's Sunday and I was under the impression that all Scottish workmen - in fact all Scottish people - were disabled by Saturday night until at least the afternoon, hoyling like wee bairns.

Oh well, I thought, I might as well lie here cursing for a while. I spent the next 2 hours cursing and continually being jerked out of extremely weak dozing by my phone alarm because I got the snooze and the stop buttons mixed up.

Eventually, when arose and looked out of the window I saw the prettiest sight I've witnessed for a long while. When I can get round to it I'll put a photo up so you can see what I mean. I'm looking at it now, and it's gorgeous.

I'm about 200 yards from the sea, with a couple of very cool-looking houses in between, and over there, I suppose, is Denmark. In fact, if I could throw a stone hard enough I could knock a window out at the Sherlock from here. That isn't strictly true, of course, but I don't want to get bogged down so..

It looks like the tide is out (you can tell I'm no mariner) and the gulls are fannying around on the rocks and every now and then abruptly spannering off inland a little bit before, this bit I'm guessing because they're quite hard to tell apart, coming back disappointed and fannying around again on the rocks.

Which is what I'm going to do now.

Just a quick one.

I didn't go to bed when I said I might, but you may not have been able to tell because the timestamps on my posts suggest that I'm in California, or somewhere similiarly removed. Until I figure out the mechanics of this blogsite and how to adjust them sensibly please ignore the tine signatures, or whatever they're called.