28 January 2008

Winter kept us warm

On Friday after work I met Raewyn and Mike in Southwark for a drink in a pub and dinner at the Young Vic. We chatted about Raewyn's new job in Dulwich, Mike's parents' new house in Whakatane and R & M's plans to return to New Zealand at some stage this year. I can recommend the Vic's Russian sausages - very tasty.

The next day the skies were sunny and cloudless, so I decided to venture out of town to take advantage of the good weekend weather. I took a bus to Clapham and boarded the express to Brighton to enjoy some bracing sea air. The train journey only takes an hour, and soon I was wandering down Queen's Road to the beachfront, noticing the lively mix of Brighton's Saturday shoppers, including plenty of studded and pierced students who flock to study here.

I enjoyed a stroll along the strand, watching council workers slowly clearing the stony beach of the hundreds of processed timber planks that floated ashore along the south coast after the cargo ship Ice Prince sank recently. Now the wood is stacked neatly like huge funeral pyres along the brownstone beach, and the work crews gradually cart more and more away to be sold. Here and there locals had used the planks to spell out their names in giant letters or to skid their skateboards along.

Wandering back through the town, I paid a visit to the town museum and gallery. Its collection includes a wooden 19th century Maori ancestor carving from a whare nui. Upstairs there were other curiosities, including an aged flybill for the Brighton to London horse-drawn coach service, a cast of the head and foot of the extinct dodo, and posters from the heyday of the Brighton Pier: 'Ronnie Corbett in The Corbett Follies! Dick Emery and the Barron Knights!'

I paused to take some photos of the splendidly elaborate onion-domes of the town's greatest architectural excess: Prince George's Royal Pavilion (1823) ... but I didn't go in again (I visited in 1997 during my tour of the south coast), because it costs ₤7.70 and they don't let you take pictures inside. Maybe next time. Instead I went to take some pictures of the West Pier, which collapsed in 2002 and now lies derelict, although there are plans - as yet unfunded - to build an impressive viewing tower nearby. Below is my favourite shot of the day - taken in Brighton station on the way back to London:

At home that evening I enjoyed watching 'QI' (Stephen Fry's clever panel show; it stands for Quite Interesting) and 'Green Wing'. Later BBC2 screened Woody Allen's Match Point with Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, so I gave that a go. While I can understand Allen wanting to work with Scarlett, the script of this film really wasn't sufficiently interesting: the stilted dialogue was unrealistic and the portrayals of the English aristocracy seemed superficial and cliched. When Rhys-Meyers' character - who is meant to be Irish - asks his secretary for 'two ahrspirins' I just about shouted at the telly in annoyance. No-one talks like that! Perhaps the chance to put Scarlett in two Allen-scripted movies at the same time (he also made Scoop in London with her) exhausted Woody's writing reservoirs.

Today was a low-key one, although it was another sunny winter's day. After a quick visit to the Fopp store in Shaftesbury Avenue to buy some cheap books and a comedy DVD ('Stella Street', the one with a load of impersonated celebs - Jagger, Caine, Nicholson, Bowie - all living in a suburban London street) I met Steve and Fiona for coffee at Sacred, where we discussed the possibility of meeting up on a tour of Russia this summer. Fingers crossed that it works out, because it would be a great opportunity to see St Petersburg and Moscow for the first time.

This past week proved to be a lively one for infrastructual reasons. On Tuesday the building I work in had its water supply disconnected, and the chief executive sent everyone home. But my team couldn't depart because we had an important paper to complete and distribute. Lucky the British Museum has excellent toilets only just around the corner! That night I got home to discover that our hot water cylinder had developed a fault, so we were without the central heating and hot water in the taps for two nights. The trusty hot water bottle was pressed into duty and staved off the chills, and fortunately the shower worked fine as it was electric rather than gas-heated.

And congratulations must go out to Bec & Hugh in Tawa, who are the proud parents of baby Isla Bernadette Foley. Well played, chaps!


'Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers'
- T.S. Eliot

p.s. No snow here, but plenty of tubers... mmm, chips...
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