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The Social Network: First Frost

Thursday 21st October, bright sky; chill air. Definitely crispy out in the garden at 7am, which makes this the first frosty morning of the autumn for us, though not for the UK.

Tuesday night, down to the Dukes to see The Social Network, on Gabriel's earnest reccommendation (But Gabriel, surely you must have noticed I'm not interested in Facebook, and not excited about money?. . . Oh, okay, since it's a piece of your world. . .) It was pretty good. We thought Timberlake (Sean Parker) took a very good part, very natural, and the Mark Zuckerburg actor, Jessie Eisenberg, was excellent. I barely got bored at all. In ways, this reminded me of the movie version of UK political sitcom The Thick Of It (In the Loop 2009). The same almost total concentration on the chilling, painful frivolity of young men in positions of status and power: the same young female voice, offering exasperated commentary from a distance: either disgusted -that would be Erica, the girl who resists Mark's resentful advances, played by Rooney Mara-; or pitying (that would be the young lawyer who passes final judgement on the lad, I think played by Rachida Jones).

We live in a young male world, it says here. There is no alternative, this is it. Girls are either rapacious WAGS, disposable groupies, (shedloads of drug-and-alcohol soaked Asiatic cuties!); or they're some kind of alien life form: superior, benign, and helpless.

Dunno if I'm in a position to argue with that view.

But did you ever notice, with all the evolutionary psychology arguments banging on about what women should be like, or should not do (such as science, such as expect promotion at Larry Summers' Harvard) because they are female animals, you rarely hear what evolution says about the young male hordes, being pronounced as social gospel. They're supposed to die, that's what they're supposed to do. Maybe what I liked best about this movie (and cf Fight Club, not surprisingly), is that Zuckerberg, in Fincher's view, is well aware of this. I know I'm supposed to die. It's written all over Jessie Eisenberg's sad little defensive blank of a face.

The illustration? That's North Wind, from At The Back Of The North Wind, George MacDonald. I'm auditioning cover images for the Aqueduct Press ebook edition of the Aleutian Trilogy. She represents worldly misfortune, ruin and grief. Which is I suppose what our young male world quite rightly fears must ensue, from their point of view, if Women's Liberation should ever become a serious force*.

George MacDonald approves of her, actually. What an old misery eh?

The Downs

Friday 15th October, grey still and cool. Birdsong returning to the garden, as it does at this time of year.

Sunday 10th October, clear blue skies, we take the 79 bus up to Ditchling Beacon. Wildlife spotting at the bus-stop (I'm easily bored), I started counting ladybirds on a garden wall. Ladybird larvae too, creeping around in curious numbers.

Peter: Are those the bad guys?

Gwyneth: I don't think we're doing that anymore, they're just immigrants now. (These East Asian ladybirds, where are they flocking from?) They've moved in, fait accompli.

Yes, indeed, they are harlequins. About this time of year they are looking for somewhere to hide, just like the natives: a bark crevice, a hole in a concrete plinth, to doze away the winter. What are the larvae looking for? I suspect they're about to pupate, how interesting, on a plastered concrete wall?; but here's the bus.

This is kind of a utility walk, for a day when we haven't the time to get further away from town. On the new turned earth, ready for winter wheat, Herring gulls are following the plough, doing like gulls are supposed to do in the Ladybird "What To Look For In Autumn": urban scavengers looking rather amazed at themselves

Hey, just look at us. How positively bucolic!
Still, it's nice to get out.

Walking from Ditchling Beacon, down to the village of Ditchling, a kestrel hanging below us, poised in the air; out the other side & across the downs to the Clayton Windmills, back to the Beacon by Steadman Common. Some of the time on the South Downs Way itself, always on well-trodden tracks, this is a part of the downs that has lost some detail, become coarsened by use rather than by agribusiness, on its way to getting the feeling of a municipal park, but even so, under these wide blue skies, a fresh breeze chasing around us, Sussex is still so beautiful. Ropes of translucent bryony berries, hawthorns thick with matt ruby haws, wild roses covered in flask-shaped carnelian hips, but no fungi, because no undisturbed pasture; no foraging except for some kindling.

I've had a nudge from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, must fill in the DEFRA questionnaire at surveymonkey. How do you feel you benefit from the natural environment?

What am I supposed to say to that. I don't care if I benefit or not. I want this beauty to exist for its own reasons, I owe the Downs, they don't owe me a thing.

Ich bin ein piece of the natural environment. I don't have a separate existence.

Which parts of the natural environment matter most to you?

Maybe I'll put TREES, lay off my trees you pedants, which is somewhat a dig at the Wildlife Trust itself, currently gripped by a passion for reverting to the ice age vegetation of this area.

No, I won't.

I Cannot Read The Fiery Letters. . .

Thursday 7th October. Yesterday, just at sunset, a huge weather front crossed our sky in a sweep of marvellous colour. Was that the rain saying, so long for now? This morning, crisp and fair.

Hey, a letter from Speranza. What can it be? A response to an Amnesty International Action? I don't think Strasbourg was on any of my recent recipient-lists. No, it's an invitation to write for an anthology, something sf or fantasy, for young people. (For free, I hasten to add, it's a proper project, no snouts in the trough here). Has to be somehow related to one of the Human Rights Convention articles relating to children; the anthology being published under the umbrella of a programme titled, with my favourite Futuristic Utopian Megastate's usual elegant concision "Building A Europe For And With Children".

Anyway, it sounds okay to me and I've signed up. If I write a story that gets accepted, I'll let you know.

I have just spent about half an hour patiently trying to post a comment on the Aqueduct Press blog. Anyone with any sense would have thought, a glitch: quit and started again later, but I'm used to attempting these trials about a zillion times before I succeed so I kept on and on, ghryleebs, mmmgsheba, cantelsin. . .

Wrong every time. I am hopeless. Sumbitted it to the human moderator instead.

Cuticle Damage at the Contemporary Music Ensemble

Tuesday 5th October, grey skies, mild, a fine drizzle. Looks like bountiful autumn has been and gone, for now. I actively like walking over the downs in wet wild October weather, but looking out of this window at the draggled colourless garden, I can only long for spring.

30th September, up to Blackheath Halls for a reprise that might well become an institution, the second Trinity Contemporary Music Ensemble Concert. Our principal motivation of course the pianists, Gabriel Jones and Lydia Aoki, but the music grows on you. Met Gabriel at the station and took him for a quick Italian at Zero Degrees, (it's on the Greenwich Meridian see, comes highly reccommended). See your child, feed your child, even if your child is forty seven and a High Court Judge, it's a law of nature. G jnr's sober dandy ensemble (Gabriel with cufflinks!) somewhat marred by a seen better days black woolly jumper with raggedy cuffs: it's a trick of the trade, saves the sides of the hands from getting bruised purple when piano abuse is called for; he proudly showed us the blackened and bloody cuticles caused by violent glissando work. What did I like? (what do i remember?). I liked husk, paul newland, with the countdown screens and all the spaces inbetween (and a slight technical hitch I'm afraid I took for part of the score, until the pianist got restive). The Hammerhawk stephen montague, that's the violent one, Blond Afrodite. . . Gregory Rose, and The Dream Cat, Deirdre Gribbin, the deceptively conventional chamber piece. The student pieces just went by too fast, but I remember Double Rainbow, because of the daft youtube video association, and Anthropogenic was clever, it's carbon emissions, see, the gases translated into chords, Contemporary Music is full of puns.

And then, the next night, a biography of Vaughan Williams turned up on the telly. What a shifty great amorous old hearth rug, what a giant human badger he was. . .and in the middle of it suddenly found myself listening to the roots of what I'd heard at Blackheath Halls in a piece of music I've known all my life, and never thought remotely weird or "challenging", how could I? It was a favourite with my parents. But it is.

I think they really know where they're coming from, those Trinity Contemporary Music people.

And then, the night after that, it was an Eighties reunion, in the upper room at what used to be The Richmond, down in Brighton by the sea, & Dinah & I were dancing, the sole representatives of the old front row, to The Jungle and This Colour. It never rains but it pours.