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the arun, peter in chains


Friday 31st July, sunny and clear, about 28 degrees. Lovely weather for cricket, a bit malicious of the weather gods to lay it on for Brighton, given that they are apparently planning to drown Pride tomorrow.

Marcel walking in Paris, a summer evening in wartime, the sky still a sea of turquoise:

"But if one looked for long at the sky, this lazy, too beautiful sky which did not condescend to change its timetable and above the city where the lamps had been lit, indolently prolonged its lingering day in these blueish tones, one was siezed with giddiness: it was no longer a flat sea but a vertically stepped series of blue glaciers. And the tower of the Trocadero, which seemed so near the turquoise steps, must, one realised be infinitely remote from them. . ."

Immediately, I long to be somewhere where I can see the immensity of those "glaciers": but you probably need to be in a city, and you must be on a hilltop. Here in West Sussex on a summer afternoon, there's no trick of the light or angle to break the illusion. The height of blue sky, with all its ranked clouds, seems to match exactly the space of meadow and woodland below the horizon. The Arun harbours yellow waterlilies, the Wey and Arun canal, a project of restoration that's fallen on hard times, hides between drifts of purple loosestrife. We'd been drenched in The Mens, hiding under a tree in the shadowy beech and holly woodland, we were hoping to find lunch of some kind in Wisborough Green. In the church of St Peter ad Vincula, extraordinary little treasure, we were waylaid by an agreeable church warden or similar, who may have turned up to make sure we weren't nicking anything but stayed to tell us all about it, the tour guide experience. Saxon foundation, Norman structure, fourteenth century wall-paintings, fifteenth century side aisles, the tower had to be built inside the body of the church because otherwise it might have fallen off the knoll, and into the river which used to flow just below us in those days. The Huguenots came and made glass hereabouts, bits get dug up in gardens, there's a tiny window pieced together from scraps of blueish, very thin, mediaeval glass. . . Thank God, says I, as we finally left, all of that lot wasn't in French. Almost drenched again, we made it to the Three Crowns, a very nice location on the 272, on one of the prettiest and most touristique roads in the South of England. Startlingly good food, if you are passing on your way to historic Winchester.

Butterflies. The oaks along the field margins. A long halt for sky-gazing yoga by the old canal, listening to a water wheel. And back in the Mens, one lone Parasol mushroom, which I stubbornly carried home, because Parasols are so tasty. It should be a great summer for funghi, the rain has to be good for something, but we saw nothing else edible, except for a couple of elderly horse mushrooms I decided to leave to the invertebrates.

The photo is by Simon Carey, and if you link through his name you can find out how to buy it.

Thanks to Mark Irons, for the nice letter you sent to Aoxomoxoa.

Midnight Lamp free online


Cool grey evening, no sign of the threatened rain.

Midnight Lamp online, third episode of Bold As Love, has now been added to the right page of the bold as love site, and here it is:http://www.boldaslove.co.uk/


Tell you the truth, I never thought of this project as circumventing the Google Settlement (they've digitised "Life", for some reason, but I don't think any other of my titles). It's just something I've always wanted to do. In time, all my novels will be provided in this form, or whatever replaces this form*, and they're yours to keep, I won't have any power to wipe your copy from your reader, or nefariously meddle with the content as a form of attack-art. (Though it's an idea). *Yes, even Escape Plans.

Ann Halam, hm. That's a lot of books. . .

The only thing that slows me down is the remastering, but it'd be a shame not to. Esp in the case of episode 4 of Bold As Love, the next in line for the treatment.

and to think. . .


Tuesday July 28th, cool sun and cloud, strong breeze

And to think, six months ago I was convinced that by the summer, at the very latest, I would be safely back in those halcyon days of the lost past, when I could spend my time being a writer; even indulge in the hours of critical reading, writing, listening, thinking, and speculation that trickle down, eventually into an essay or an article for my own archives. Fat chance. Today it's a break of sorts, bullying my tax docs into submission : first the neat and docketed parts, then at last, reluctantly, the woeful heap of crumpled old bus tickets that represent out of pocket miscellaneous expenses, (which we have to be ready to produce, you know) and here is laid bare the staggering amount of time I have spent on trains since last December, not to mention the miserable things I have had to eat on said trains (seem to be a few beers here as well, but I couldn't call that a consolation). The endless Americanos. That smoked ham sandwich and "Florida Orange Juice" from M&S food manchester piccadilly, probably the nadir of dining experiences. Ah, the almond croissants at Pumpkin, East Croydon (a rare non-Manchester related jaunt). They were nice.

Oooh, a ten pound note!

I shouldn't complain, it's no worse than having a job, I'm sure (as opposed to being a feckless artist). And last week, a genuine break, reading Helen Merrick's "Secret Feminist Cabal" story. Really fresh, interesting take on the whole phenomenon of women/feminist sf/feminism in the sf community: light on literary criticism, academic jargon, long on piecing together what happened, when it happened, and who did what to whom. Segues from chapters of what's frankly vintage tasty gossip (what else is history?), into analytical discussion, and settles on the place of science in feminist sf as a final topic. An aspect of the endeavour that usually goes right by feminist theorists who get interested in fem-sf, & it's a shame. Science isn't only a metaphor, or a decor, or a crude means of smuggling utopia into adventure fantasy. There are women (me for one) who write sf not to make a feminist point, that's necessity, not preference. But because they are interested in science, just the way a bloke might be.

No use, time's a wasting, tomorrow I'm back on the train, now for the triage operation on these scraps

The photo is a view from Greenwich Park. The poppy field and my office are on their holidays, wish I was.

Indexing, Indexing, Indexing


Tuesday, 21st July, cool and balmy air, luminous overcast

After breakfast and putting together the ful mesdames which will simmer now all day, I take my coffee out to the shabby peace of our patio and pretend I'm on holiday, Kastraki beach 2005 wd do, or Thoard or Bonnieux last summer. Seven drunks in a van, coming back from Lords howling incoherently down the phone, evervescent with the cunning way Freddie conspired to rob England, for once of a triumphant snatching of defeat from the jaws of victory, reminded me yesterday of Kastraki, and the Australian Internet bar in Naxos town... The air is soft, I have a good book (it's Accelerando), maybe I just went swimming in the Aegean, maybe not, but never mind, I have a painted lady for company, a female she's sitting on the worn wood (just like in the picture), fearless and calm, even when I get close to her. Accelerando is a this is where I came in experience (like deja vu only not so exciting as it's voluntary). Exactly like reading Neuromancer for the first time, or Bruce Sterling when I first met him. The humane geek, hip to the futuristic edge of things, and, sadly for me, terrified of women. Did I ever mention, all the times I've praised the cyberpunks, that little problem? Me, not a deracinated cyberbabe, not a Mom or a vagina dentata. Therefore me not possible! Ah, well, me and the butterfly, same problem maybe. But don't you see, the world already is packed with intelligent information? Looking back at us, from every angle? Don't you see, we don't need Second Nature, reinventing the wheel, we only need to connect?

I wish I could stay outdoors, getting my brain tweaked into pleasurable attention, but I have to go to work. Indexing, indexing, indexing, what made me remember this as an enjoyable task? Maybe the volume was slimmer, and maybe I was working in Old Word, a decade ago, instead of struggling with a pdf ripped back into Word 2007, which I don't like. Or else it's because this so-called book of essays is more like a memoir, and that gets boring after several close examinations. Full of things I'm finished with.

Charles Brown, Emperor of Locus

Monday July 13th, cool and cloudy, one lone swift on the wing.

Just got the news, via SFRA, that Charles Brown is dead. I liked him very much, he was a friend of mine from the first time we met. I'm glad he went easy (I mean, as far as the reports I've seen), that's a gift from the gods. He'll be missed.

Testimony

Friday 10th July, clear blue sky, cooler. No swifts.

Finally watched Tony Palmer's Shostakovich biopic last night. I don't know why, considering the director, but I'd been expecting a sombre bio/historical drama. It's more of a Ken Russell puppet show, and if it hadn't been made for Channel 4, I'd have wondered what audience Palmer was thinking of, for a fairly demanding topic. I thought it was pretty good, though. The combination of stark black&white & surreal carnival effects works very well with the man's music and with the horror around him. Interesting range of reviews here and elsewhere! I must concur: if you're a big fan of Joe Stalin you should beware of this movie. It will only upset you.

I love red kites, always look forward to seeing them over the M40. I didn't know they did interior design, how nice.

Madness, mayhem, anorexia

Monday 6th July, cool grey and showery.

Madness and misery in my bedside reading. I've just reached the home straight of Proust again, Time Regained, and Marcel's jaded view on life is getting me down. Every friend betrays him, everyone turns out to be venal, treacherous, secretly homosexual or all three. The "secretly homosexual" issue has to be a big part of the problem, but Marcel's thesis that: when homosexuality is outlawed, only nasty or feeble-minded perverts persist, all the normal people who happen to be gay/lesbian just make do with straight sex is getting me down too. . . And then it's back to Gravity's Rainbow, paranoia goes mad in wartime Europe; more grim loony tunes. And if I decide to skip GR, I revert to The Tale Of Genji, despairing anorexic women with limbs like wet spaghetti, creeping around in gloom, getting institutionally raped. I've thought of replacing Gravity's Rainbow with Memoires De L'Outre Tombe, but Francois Rene de Chateaubriand can be a bit of a miserable nutcase himself. . . I need a new direction, but I can't bear to let go. I started reading those three majestic tomes in rotation about twenty years ago.

Trapped by my own traditions, I've probably reached the age I've heard about, where people no longer find the cruel edge of reality intensely satisfying, instead they just do not want to hear the bad news.

To London last week, last minute draftee (Iain Banks had to drop out) to a panel on Science Fiction, at the World Conference of Science Journalists, Central Hall. Nice to see Geoff and Paul, briefly, nice to visit the grand old Methodist Party Central, home of a famous conference of Futuristic Utopians in the Bold As Love story; and an amazingly well-attended panel. NB, it was not science fiction about global warming, drowning cities or anything like that. It was rocketship fantasies, with a small side-order on human cloning. Human cloning always gets people going & I can't understand why. It's just a form of IVF, the DNA is not the person & if you think it can be banned, should the shrinking knowledge gap be bridged, and should there be a market for the product, you are living in a dreamworld. Anyway, it was fun to be in London in the heat, crossing the vasty halls of Canary Wharf, seeing all the Londoners set their teeth as Tube Girl advised them, once more, to carry a bottle of water.

If she had a neck, that girl would be SO strangled.

Maybe I'll be less grumpy tomorrow. Did I mention the hayfever? First year I've ever suffered full blown hayfever, it goes on forever and I don't like it.

Strange Accolade

Friday 26th June, very warm and hazy. It's Ginger's birthday, she's eight.

Up to London yesterday evening, too hot, crowded train, me having failed to complete my draft of the Long Price essay, for my brother's birthday dinner at The Star, Belgrave Mews. We ate, we drank, we talked about many things up and down the long table. . . On the train home again, suddenly somebody called out, Michael Jackson's dead!

Seemed like it was true, because the same call went up from other seats in the carriage, the news conveyed to a moving train by our futuristic world's telecoms, and then passed around in the simplest way, mouth to mouth. . . As we walked along the Upper Lewes Road someone came out of a house and called to us, with the same absence of emotion, yet the same conviction that something important had happened, hey, man, Michael Jackson's dead!

Strange accolade.

He was a very good dancer, a phenomenal entertainer, a rock and roll casualty who died painfully, shamefully, publicly; over decades. Poor kid.

Midsummer's Eve


Wednesday 24th June, another clear warm day, strong breeze.

Midsummer's Eve, eight in the evening, I stand on our ledge (sort of balcony with rickety-railed steps down to the garden, outside the kitchen door), watching the swifts, scimitar wings, flashing when they catch the sun, one, two, four... Maybe a dozen, that's twelve oh children of the C21. Reflected sun, evening gold, making all the roofs and walls across the blue gulf between me and Racehill glow. The trouble with moments like this is that one can't shift them out of context. They come with all the grief and losses and impending doom of the present day drawn up after them. Making it difficult, briefly, to wish the world otherwise.

Just finished Soldiers of Salamis, and found it very good. Falange, it means Phalanx, a greek squad, a noble little band of heroes is the image, only that's not what happened, Franco's dismal exhausted Spain happened. In theory it wouldn't be worth saying over again, but if you loved Pan's Labyrinth you'll love this. Salamis? Ah yes, one of those "turning points of European history", and I don't suppose Javier Cercas knows the Browning poem, but Name not the clown with these is exactly what he means, I think, by his "Miralles"

I praise masculine deconstructed heroics, male-ordered romance about lost causes and the courage it takes to go on living, and live well, because these aren't the Seventies.

Working on the Long Price review now, and just got the ARC of Grazing The Long Acre from PS. Good heavens. Wonders will never cease. The cover work by Mark Garlick was my choice, it's an sf version of Magritte's La Reponse Imprevue, which means "The unexpected answer". For the record, my favourites are "Destroyer of Worlds" and "In The Forest Of The Queen". There had to be a frog story!

PS, I decided not to do a Spirit encyclopedia, enough of that with Bold As Love, but I always search my characters' names, just in case, and this is what I turned up, long ago, for "Yelaixaing", night comes fragrance, which means tuberose (I suppose the Mexican flower? But maybe there's a Chinese tuberose). Isn't that nice.

Marine and Coastal Access Bill

Weather same as it was 10 minutes ago, except the quilt has lost definition and I can't see any swifts.

Did I mention we have a second invasion, this time those handsome Swedish tiger moths, first outlier spotted in our kitchen a couple of years ago at this time. This year, I see them darting and fluttering at treetop level, all across the Crescent gardens.


The Marine and Coastal Access Bill has a consultation document up online, it's a little difficult to find but this should get you to the pdf: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/marine-conservation-zones/MPA-draft-strategy-consultation.pdf
Please respond, before July 13th, if you're interested in conservation, fish (including eating them), diving, seabirds, or anything of that kind. As you must have heard, recently, it's scary what's happening to global fish stocks, and shocking that there is a solution (No Take Zones) that's proven, swiftly successful and speedily profitable, but NTZs aren't being included in the Bill as it stands, for fear of reprisals from the fishing industry. The same "fishing industry" that soon won't exist unless dramatic action is taken, but no, they'd rather chew their own paws off and bleed to death than let anyone help them out of the trap.

What is a No Take Zone? What it sounds like. It's an area, usually quite small, inshore or in the open sea, from which nobody's allowed to take any fish, shellfish, crustaceans. No commercial fishing, with any kind of gear; no angling. Leisure diving, boating, swimming regulated but allowed. Ideally, they're areas identified as spawning or nursery grounds for important commercial or conservation-worthy species. In the open ocean (cf the Plaice Box) they work but not terrifically well, because the fishing crews just put more pressure on the adjoining areas. Inshore, which is the area the Bill covers, they've been found to work swiftly and spectacularly, restoring populations of young fish, lobsters, scallops, cockles, whatever, and when they grow up & wander out of the zone they put the local fishing industry back in business in a sustainable way. It's simply game-keeping for the wild harvest of the ocean, and about bloody time. (excuse my Australian, the pioneers of this kind of conservation are Australian and NZ). See this site

The Art Of Science


Monday 22nd June, warm. A bright, downy layered overcast, the kind of sky that promises rain or sun, but fails to deliver either.

Last Wednesday, on a chill June evening, we took the train to Shoreham for an event in the Adur Festival Art of Science programme, a multi-media science lecture presented by Philip Harris from Sussex Uni, devised by Harris, Richard Durrant, and Malcolm Buchanan-Dick. Truly awesome and far-reaching it says here, and no word of a lie. A short history of the alphabet soup (or "particle zoo") that presently pertains, quarks and all, with abstract music and visuals generated from the EDM experiment at Grenoble. Thoroughly good and gripping exposition of what "we" currently think is going on,and why. Supposing it isn't turtles all the way down, that is. We always have to take this kind of thing on faith of course, how could it be otherwise, but it was excellent fun, how refreshing to see a full house for the most abstruse of natural philosophy, and a welcome alternative to Richard Dawkins feeble "The God Delusion"

read recently, in response to a challenge on this blog from Marc Jacobs, "what have you got against Dawkins??"

. . . Dawkin's whole argument seeming to be "Don't worship that silly opinionated old bloke on a cloud over there, worship THIS silly, opinionated middle-aged bloke over here! To be fair, someone pointed out it's really a fractious response to the drubbing he got from Bible Belt creationists, but even so! He ought to be ashamed.

I wanted to ask exactly how the "measurements of asymmetries within a neutron" related to the whale-song style sound and Acid Test light show, but there were too many other people with much better prepared questions, & I wouldn't have understood much of the answer, so I just paid attention instead.

Weather Lore, Imagination Space


Thursday 11th June, clouds gathering after a warm sunny morning.

Thunderstorm at breakfast and then heavy rain on and off all day yesterday, & today looks like slipping back into more of the same. If that dry summer doesn't materialise, I'm finally going to give up on that stupid Oak and Ash thing, and this time I mean it.

Going through the copy-edited files of a book of essays & such, probably coming out next year from Aqueduct Press:how difficult it is to revisit recent non-fiction and resist the temptation to change everything. (I can usually distance myself from my own fiction, of whatever vintage. It's all make believe, maybe it made sense at the time, maybe someone else wrote it!). Time is no healer, ideas and emotions slip into the past and discontinuity blurs. I can remember feeling entitled to be angry about the invasion of Iraq, about the brutal lurch to the right engineered by the terrible marriage between the "good guys" and "those occult lunatics in the desert", but I seem to have lost that right, and even that feeling. Was there ever a world without the War on Terrorism? Was there ever an England where Parliament didn't need to be housed in concrete defences, where secret evidence was anathema, the police didn't shoot to kill; and where the rule of law prevailed? Were there vampire stories before Twilight?

My time at my desk has been so fragmented, not to say shattered, all this year, I'm amazed to find I've finished Grasshopper and turned it over to my agent. Usually, since I follow Peter's calendar, I'm racing madly to get something finished before the holidays. This'll be better. I'll make a new start in a leisurely fashion, ready to get serious in the autumn.

No I won't. If the sun refuses to shine I'll slack around, obsessively playing vintage Zelda and watching daytime movies.

June Drop

Tuesday 9th June, cold, grey and drizzly

It's that time of year. The weather has closed in, the skies are low and wet, the slugs, held at bay for a while by the cold winter, are rampant and the greenhouse, so full of hopeful beginnings in April, is now the home of gangling green tomatoes and refugees from the battlefield. One of my Japanese lantern plants seems to have decided to kill the other, so I've separated them, and the invalid isn't dead yet. On the little pear tree eight pears are still swelling, the grass under the laden plum tree is littered with small green lawn-mower killing pellets.

"People power sees off Supermarket Giant," says the Brighton Evening Argus, but if it's true Tescos have given up their plan to build a superstore in my neighbourhood I don't feel very victorious. I've read the Council's "Masterplan" for the regeneration of the London Road, and there's a hole the size of a departing elephant. Why on earth produce such a big fancy document, which must have cost a fortune full of warnings about pollution and reminders about all the sensible, vital restrictions on new developments, if the whole scheme was conditional on the covert pay off from mega-developers who were never going to get planning permission. Oh well. I'm sure it was fun putting all the pictures and flowcharts and all together.

I think there's still one frog alive in the pond, but its skin is red, and one eye white-blind. I can't think of anything to do, except one old trick; which I plan to try.

On a brighter note, here's a test of the new Midnight Lamp (soon to be officially posted on the Bold As Love pages)

A Lizard and a Cuckoo's Song

Monday June 1st, another beautiful warm day.

Sunday, warm and breezy, we didn't have time for a long day walking so we took the train to Berwick and walked around the little reservoir to Arlington, the Yew Tree, where they serve a nice pint of Sussex; and where the Norman Church of St Pancras, with its Saxon long and short work (featured in Rainbow Bridge) can be admired. Around and back through the lanes & beside the Cuckmere, pleasantly surprised by a lizard, sleek olive brown little creature, caught crossing road. There used to be a colony of Common (not in Sussex nowadays, of course) Lizards in King Death's Garden, on a neglected sunny path, but that was years ago. A viewing path has been created, more graves have been opened, the old upper cemetery has lost its summer aura of benign, dreamy neglect. Still, a lizard in the sunshine! And a cuckoo's song, from Abbot's Wood, that followed us, insistently, seeming to get clearer in the distance, as we headed down the river.

THIS IS A KNIFE late at night, Sky Artsworld, came across Bloc Party ("Banquet" and English National Ballet collaboration Ballet Rocks. Fantastic, compelling, power and glory: knocks MTV R&B excuses of song and dance routines I'm subjected to at the gym out of the ring. Reminded me of that Crocodile Dundee scene when some NY kid attempts to mug the leathery Paul Hogan. 'This is a knife, man!'. . .'Nah, mate THIS is a knife'

Eastern Eye London Rd; Painted Ladies, Roundhill Crescent

Wednesday 27th May. Grey, cold and wet. . .

. . .but yesterday, between showers, the sun came out. An influx of Painted Lady butterlfies, something I haven't seen for years, ten or a dozen of them, playing and feeding around Val's red valerians.

Update on the Another London Rd affair: Sunday, with Tarquin's help, Peter and I leafleted, to let the people know about the Council's consultation document, coming to this address soon. Up the hill and down the hill, then we all went to lunch at the Eastern Eye, to reward ourselves suitably*. It's important that plenty of people tell them that we want regeneration, but on a human scale: and for the work to be done incrementally, with minimum disruption. The Council's position is predictable: Tescos will provide "environmentally friendly" sweeteners downstream, if they get planning permission for their wacking big Stalinist project and huge carpark, and that should shut everybody up. But the pollution, the creation of a barren hinterland for the Superstore, the destruction of small businesses, and incidentally the defiance of the Council's own development guidelines will remain the same.

So please, if you are reading this and are local, make the effort.

*Anyway, Eastern Eye, London Road Brighton 07830204778/01273685151: an undiscovered gem, excellent South Indian food, original dishes, friendly service best Masala Dosa I've tasted in a long time. The only Indian restaurant in the area, if not in our city, that I'd reccommend.