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Sick As Dogs

Tuesday 31st January, a still, cold morning here in Brighton, no sign of interesting wintery showers as yet, but the temperature has certainly taken a fall.

Sick as dogs all last week, Peter and I competing with each other bitchily for the watch below, as we alternately crept about getting things done, pleading with a cranky boiler, or huddled under the duvet. Not a spectacular bug, but a mean one, crushing us to the ground, poison headache and continuous nausea combined. I started getting better on Sunday and felt such a rush of well-being, it was almost worth it. No it wasn't. At least we managed to celebrate Peter's birthday weekend first, and at least Gabriel (who has a competition this weekend coming) is getting off lightly.

So, belated welcome to the Year of the Water Dragon.

Reading, Alexander Puskin short stories, having seen them praised as the forerunners once too often to resist. A collection of engrossing fragments, uncut, unpolished shards, I really like his "flat" style (though it's still frustrating to be told I can't ever appreciate his wonderful poetry unless I become fluent in Russian); The Queen of Spades is the finished, perfect gem. Watching, a succession of movies recorded by Gabriel who then doesn't find the time to watch them. My Darling Clementine, such a beautiful movie, such beautiful cinematography, every proportion and every detail, I confess I passed over its political flaws without a pang... the "goodgirl waits smiling by the trail, badgirl does something interesting and dies"; the "homely, decent Manifest Destiny manifesto"; the "intellectuals go to the bad get tb and can only hope to die unnoted heroic deaths"... Didn't bother me at all. Scarface. The germ plasm of all Chicago-style Italian gangster movies since, inc the Al Pacino remake. Mm. No wonder the genre strikes me as so impoverished.
Gilda. Now that's an oddity. Peculiar, but very watchable. Rita Hayworth making the most of her assets is an education, should you have forgotten how much flimflam there is in the femme fatale concept.

And Borgen I don't know why I'm still watching this soap, so I suppose that makes it watchable, but for heaven's sake. By numbers, or what?

Went to see The Descendants last night, in the cold. Taken there only by the reviews, I thought (we all thought) it was very good, except the prolonged "cathartic" yelling at an effectively dead person element. Please. At least wait until you're alone in the room.

If I go to see Iron Lady, which you could not drag me to, but if, do I get my money back should I be disappointed that the last scene does not show Meryl Streep burning in hell?

The tree is a little beech in Stanmer woods, in the snow this time two years ago. i don't have enough photos of winter trees. Or any trees. So my project this year will be to remedy that. I will about the woodlands go... It's a little late, in my case, but an excellent plan.

Lack of birdlife in the garden continues.

Moral Capitalism

Friday 20th January, grey morning, but more light in the sky and currently it is not raining. The native daffodils have put on a growth spurt, all of an inch and a half high today, but they're in a very cool shady corner. Shop-daffodils are strapping adolescents, some already showing their flower buds, but I think no fair maids of February this year, despite the green winter. Dampness prevails, but the state of Ardingly reservoir is a benchmark. We need a lot of rain, unnatural amounts of rain, to get us back to what the health profession would call this patient's baseline There are just too many people living in Sussex now, and too much very thirsty agriculture. Ironically, unnatural amounts is what we're most likely to get, so here's sort-of hoping.

And so, goodbye Occupy St Paul's. Or at least, a loss of mandate for the campers. Me, I support the idea wholeheartedly, I want the revolt against Toxic Capitalism Run By Self-Confessed Psychopaths to be visible; even if I don't actually believe in capitalism anyway. Hey. Look! Occupy is working. It's working on David Cameron, Ed Milliband, and what's that other fellow? I know what these anarchic festivals of revolution look like close up (that's not Anarchist, btw); I know what they become. Haight-Ashbury wasn't all flowers and gentle, mind-opening highs, you know. But a shambolic, messy Occupy, or the LSX bonus-culture? Even the people of England, en masse, know there is no contest.

I don't believe in moral capitalism. But on the other hand, when Mr Ecover came on the tv yesterday, to explain this strange idea Dave had come up with, to the people at the BBC, I was immediately filled with a desire to go and clean a floor. That floor-cleaner of theirs smells so great, and its such a nice colour too. There's no point, says Mr Man, in making a good, righteous product nobody wants...But he doesn't, they don't. Consumers don't love the word Organic, they don't continue to favour ethically traded goods even in hard times, to punish themselves. The stuff is good, it's nice to buy good stuff, it feels good. We want more.

Still don't believe in it.

Paper Modelling vs Zelda (post-Christmas angst bulletin)

I have not given up on my duck-flying-an-aeroplane. That's just not true.

I'm getting back to it, as soon as I've finished this Water Temple.

The keynote image is Angmering beeches in Maytime. Trees will be the default feature, this year. I'm tired of my office photo

The Birches

Tuesday 17th January, 2012. Another in a series of clear nights, shell-pink dawns in a blue sky. A weekend of real frost, this morning at seven both the pools had ice on them, first time I've seen that this winter. Interestingly, the two little fish in the smaller aka wildlife pool were visible for the first time in weeks, swimming just under the ice, maybe they were curious? Or the ice was shelter and the sunshine warmed them? Anyway now, it's a grey afternoon and the mild weather is supposed to be back tomorrow. It's the old pattern from before our run of ice and snow winters, brief cold snaps; long unhealthily mild stretches. But not enough rain for us down here. We need a lot of rain.

Christmas and New Year long over, our first walk of 2012 on Sunday, a clear, crisp, sunny day. From Balcombe to the magnificent great Ouse Valley Viaduct, designed by Urpeth Ridpath, occupant of the Engineer's Tomb, such a landmark in King Death's Garden, builder (all in Latin) of the London to Brighton Railway. We lingered there a while, then onwards to Ardingly Reservoir. Last time we came this way, January 2007, the year of the floods. The fields were full of standing water, the reservoir full to the brim. We sat in the birdhide on a dark day, shivering and eating Christmas cake, watching crested grebes, gadwalls and wigeon, mallards and of course masses of geese. The Christmas cake's all gone, and the water's gone too. Plenty of people about, visiting the nature reserve on a fine sunday, but no kayakers, no sailors, just one lone fisherperson in a rowing boat, far out, beyond horrible huge expanses of exposed bank. Warnings of "deep mud" but I don't think so, the mud is dry and moss-grown. Hasn't been under water for months. Overheard on the lakepath: there's going to be no fish left by the summer, if it carries on at this rate. Mm. And then what will go next? But nothing's going to stop us carrying on at this rate. Nothing

But we sat in the hide, for old sake's sake (disappointingly, I had forgotten to put even apples in the bag) and watched the little birds instead. A tree creeper in the birch stems, neatly using its tail as a third leg; long tailed tits in the thicket. Then further along, cormorants and a heron; on Balcombe lake, we found the crested grebes. And so back to Balcombe village and the Half Moon, in a still, rosy twilight. Fancy a pint, says I, hopefully? But Peter is strong, full of new year's resolution, and says no. Not strong enough to resist crumpets and honey at home, however.

...but we go on counting our losses, and closer to home (for me). ALCS is telling me I can probably expect no more income from educational use of my work. That's the fee they pay for photocopying snippets, mostly. And I haven't heard from PLR lately. Not since their revised date for the modest share-out of Public Lending fees, warning me this may well be the last time, as their future is uncertain. Petty as these cuts may be, they're going to hurt people in the writing trade.

Saw The Artist, and thought it cute enough to cuddle, slight enough to avoid all suspicion that it might be one of those highbrow foreign things. Did I detect the safest possible little sigh of comment, in those title cards, at the refusal of "Hollywood" to read subtitles? Well, maybe this is the answer! Saw Hugo, in Manchester as it happens, at Salford Quays, the night before my mother's funeral, in a huge, filthy and spooky Multiplex..and thought it very attractive, a lovely boy's adventure for all the family, and there's no point in telling you what I thought was wrong. Have not seen Dreams Of A Life, because so far the only showing at The Dukes has been a Director's Q&A session and you have to be sharp to get those tickets.

Have watched Sherlock #2, and find the 2ns series much more polished, a little bit fascist, & very true to the original, in that the quirks and Holmes's party trick are most of it, the "detective stories" are actually a bit rubbish. Very watchable; very entertaining. We call a woman with power over the power-brokers a whore these days, not an "adventuress", how progressive, how unlike 1895! Didn't think much of the Hound of the Baskervilles, but I never thought it was a great Holmes story. Nobody will come with me to see Guy Ritchie's slap bang wallop version, sigh.

Have been reading Dickens, but that will wait. Also A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind, Christien Gholson, sent to me by the author as a thank you (he liked Life). Surrealist, charming, recommended by Karen Fowler and deservedly so. Set in Belgium, naturally, where in a town called Villon, a lost poet's lost poems serve as the mcguffin.

The Russian-loooking birch grove is not from the Balcombe walk, they're in Lodgesale Wood, near Nuthurst; the pines there are also really beautiful.