Season Notes 4

This post has been sitting around in my drafts folder for months without being published. But I like these season-notes and want to keep them going. So, catching up very quickly on April to June:

I finished my long post-Crunch holiday with a trip to Morocco and, at the end of April, I started a new contract close to Brighton station. The election was a great storyline but a disappointing result. I saw Nick Cave play in London. I discovered that my Dad had met Grace Hopper (I’ve no idea why he didn’t mention that before now).

Birthday celebrations were fun. I saw Eddie Argos doing his spoken word tour; and Lou-Ice and Sara visited for the launch of Swenglish. The Glastonbury Festival was the best yet, with Sarah, MJP, Rosy, Robin, James and Dina all being awesome. Kanye was ambitious but missed; Patti Smith played an incredible set where the Dalai Lama’s appearance halfway through was not the highlight.

I had a few performances. I did a piece at Hammer and Tongue, featuring Chris Parkinson on video. I asked him to be Flava to my Chuck D and he killed it. I spoke at the Catalyst Club on ‘Not Walking Around the World’; I gave a talk as part of Brighton Fringe on Sussex Death Folklore, which I loved researching and was delighted by how warmly people responded. I was part of the Nocturnal event at the Towner Gallery.

I wrote about the Cheeky Walks for Brighton-A-Budget and did a piece on meetups for the Crunch blog. I also published my first collection of stories, and tiny booklet of 6 stories in 600 words (review here):

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Season Notes 3: winter is over

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Winter has been interesting. Looking back, I did a lot more than I thought I had – and there have been some big changes.

Some things that happened: I saw in the New Year with a lovely quiet party, then went for a New Year’s Day Walk. Inspired by that, I decided to do all of the Cheeky Walks this year and have so far done 6 out of 21. I visited the Chepstow Mari Lwyd and the de la Warr’s Ladybird exhibition; organised three Brighton Java sessions (one I spoke at one but wasn’t happy with the talk); restarted the Not for the Faint-Hearted Sessions; wrote 32 daily blog posts in Two Towns about psychogeography and adventure; had a great surprise-night-out at 8 Miles High; went to Mathilda’s Slash/Night2; started a programming blog; enjoyed watching The Babadook and Bitter Lake; saw the eclipse on Brighton Beach. I didn’t have any interesting nightmares.

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I finally made the leap to working for myself. I handed in my notice at Crunch in January and now have my own company, Riddlefox, and will be starting my first contract at the end of April. To celebrate the new company I bought an actual fox:

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Fox in the shop – I’ve not yet put it up at home!

I also made a trip to India, visiting New Delhi, Mathura (leaving after three hours), Bharatpur, Dausa, Pushkar, Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar – not bad for two weeks. I have almost sorted out the photos and will probably blog things in a week or two.

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Pushkar is still one of the most beautiful places in the world

Probably the biggest event of the winter was my Mum being ill. We all had a difficult wait before she went for an operation the day after Mothering Sunday. She seems to be recovering (as well as settling into the new house with Dad). It’s going to take some time for things to get back to normal (or, rather, a new normal) – but, thanks to the work of the doctors and nurses, we’ve been delivered from something that could have been much worse.

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The last two Season Notes have both featured disappointment at how underwhelming my reading is. I finished 35 books in the winter of which, as usual, few were any good. Viv Albertine’s biography Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys was inspiring and heartbreaking; after 6 months, I finally finished ST Joshi’s massive Lovecraft biography; Release It! was one of the best technical books I’ve read

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I met the clown Tommy Tickle at the Catalyst Club

Despite doing a lot I still feel disappointed by what I didn’t do. I only sent out the novel a couple of times; I lost a lot of weight and put a chunk of it back on. I’m having treatment for my hip but still not running. I still feel busier than I should be and I’m still keeping to-do lists, despite knowing they’re bad for me. I should either do something about these things or stop caring.

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The first sign of Spring in Brighton is when the Carousel is rebuilt

Spring is coming and it will soon be warm enough to swim again. There are so many exciting things on the horizon: the General Election, gigs by Eddie Argos and the Nordic Giants,The Brighton Fringe Festival, my 39th birthday and Glastonbury (Kayne West!). I have upcoming performances at Hammer and Tongue on April 2nd, at the Catalyst on April 16th and at the Odditorium on May 28th (you can subscribe to the new mailing list if you want updates on these sorts of things). I’ll also do some promotion for my secret Lovecraft short story project. And there’s my new contract. Life is good.

 

Season-notes 2: What I did in the Autumn

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Three months ago I wrote a set of season notes, and it’s time for another. Three months seems a good period of time to stop and reflect on. Some things change, some things don’t, but you can see the patterns.

At the end of September I was worn out by work and organising events. I have now cut down on my commitments, which turned out to be a good move. I took the Facebook and twitter apps off my phone, and I’ve missed them less than I’ve enjoyed the feeling of additional space. I’ve also stopped keeping to-do lists, and my life didn’t collapse. I still find myself falling back into the habit, but I’m now more comfortable with letting my inbox fill up.

Lots of things that happened: Apple Day was a glorious end to the summer. I gave a talk, ‘The Internet is Haunted’ at the Phoenix Gallery and Eastbourne’s Towner. I saw the Nordic giants and watched the Manic Street Preachers play The Holy Bible – a cathartic experience. The MechaPoet performed with the Lovely Brothers then, as Chris writes, “was nearly washed away in the thunderstorm but we managed to dry her out in front of the radiator”. I went to a talk by John Lydon, attended MuCon (1, 2) and the LJC OpenConf; rounded off the 2014 season of Brighton Java; went on a trip to Sweden and visited Canterbury and Margate. One of my stories was discussed in a university English lecture. I watched 20,000 days on Earth and The Punk Singer, both of which were very inspiring. I was published in the Guardian blogs, with a piece co-written by Sophie Turton (I’ve not dared look at the link myself yet because comments). And I bonded with my family over Christmas food poisoning.

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Work continued to be a drag and I drafted a resignation letter after returning from Sweden. But a couple of friends advised me to hold out, and that turned out to be a good decision. I still think the work I’m doing do is important and worthwhile and it’s a shame when distractions get in the way. Things have improved, and I’ve learned a valuable lesson in patience and forbearance. I’m currently working away at some personal goals and, once those are done, I will think about what I want to do.

One of those goals is to send out some of my creative work. I’m still not interested in being ‘a writer’; but dealing with rejection is a skill I’ve never developed. I finished a book, Everybody Hates a Tourist, back in October, and I’m going to send that out to a few places. Another goal is losing the weight I’ve put on since starting at Crunch. I’m still not able to run, so fixing my hip will be a good place to start with this.

Last time I said I wanted to get more from the books I’m reading. I’ve made some improvement on this. I read 15 books, my favourites being Head On by Julian Cope, and Black Summer, a collection of Henry Rollins’ journals (interesting that the films and books I enjoyed most were about musicians). I also loved Louise‘s book Swenglish, which I will post about tomorrow. I’m trying to read more consciously, to ask why I’m spending time on a particular book. To quote Warren Ellis, “If we’re not doing something with the information we’re taking in, then we’re just pigs at the media trough.

The best nightmare I had featured me as the only survivor of a plane crash where there were no bodies in the wreckage. The dream plagiarised James Herbert’s The Survivor when the twist was that I was dead too. The best dream featured someone opening a window at work and the office being flooded by crows. What can that mean?

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I’ve been in Brighton for twenty years now, and I sometimes worry that I’ve settled into too many habits. But things do seem to be shifting and there’s a lot to look forward to in 2015. I have a visa for India. Slash/Night is being repeated, this time under the auspices of Mathilda Gregory; I’m also doing some sort of technical/programming thing for her performance How to be Fat. And I’m reviving Not for the Faint-Hearted, my anti-creative writing sessions. Should be fun.

Season-notes

It used to be fashionable for companies to write ‘weeknotes’, regular summaries of what they’d done, and what they had planned. These weeknotes are used both to review and to define. Some companies found a week wasn’t long enough to see patterns, to smooth out quirky bits of time, so took to writing monthnotes. For me, life is probably best reviewed in seasons. A few boom/bust mood cycles, enough time to see things change a tiny bit.

My 39th summer has now come to an end. I had a lot planned, particularly for the digital festival, and most of it didn’t happen. But a lot of other things did. I always think of the summer as starting with my birthday. I held a party this year, which was fun:

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It did get going once people arrived. Other fun things I did: went to Dungeness with Muffy; saw Method Man at the Dome (I was supposed to see Ghostface too, but he cancelled); hung out with Mike and Sarah Parker at Glastonbury, and with Rosy at Latitude; ran some good sessions at Brighton Java; watched True Detective with Jay; wild-camped on the Downs with Vicky; went to an old school-friend’s party; attended dConstruct and hackcircus; and swimming. I started swimming late this year but made up for it with some lovely dips.

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Slash/Night was something that Chris Parkinson and I came up with back in 2013, and it finally took place this month. Chris missed the event but had an amazing excuse, being in Hollywood for the premiere of his film. My old pal Kate Collier-Woods read, and Mathilda Gregory and Muffy Hunter gave talks. Muffy’s piece is online and is well worth a read.

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I’ve read thirteen books since my birthday, and most of them weren’t that great. The long-awaited Number 9 bus to Utopia was a good read, and Fluent in Three Months was inspiring. The rest were kind of boring.

Possibly I need to take a little more care what I read.

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Best nightmare: I dreamed I was travelling by coach at night through some roadworks and we passed a creepy clown. Why was the clown on the motorway? And why was he smiling like that? And, even worse, the coach was slowing down. Getting back to sleep was difficult.

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Work has been more gruelling than I would have liked. I’m not sure how much of that is down to my attitude and how much is due to inevitable changes. But I’m still mostly happy with my job. I feel that I’m doing something worthwhile, something that improves people’s lives. Better that than working out how to trick people into clicking on ads or helping consumers to engage with brands.

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Growing older is weird. I broke a tooth and went to the dentist. He told me I was reaching the age where my teeth might be inclined to crumble a little. Yet I’ve always felt like I’m still learning to be me, still working towards being a particular person. It might be healthier to just admit the person I am and get on with that.

Summer is never what you think it will be. Time passes too quickly. I should have spent less time indoors and done more with the days. But that’s a lesson learned. I’m going into the Autumn with few commitments. Maybe, if I cut down on my inputs, on my demands to myself, I’ll do far more with my time.

14th June to 26th September 2014