Uptight & Personal Diary Entry Thursday 18th March

30 03 2010

Thursday 18th

Another bollocking at work. I must not sympathise with the plight of Melrose authors. This is unprofessional according to Jill. Must schedule complete empathy by-pass operation. I should ask her for the name of the doctor who performed hers. It’s a sterling job.

Friday 19th

Have no idea where week has gone. Fizzog back to normal. Head into Cambridge to meet with a prospective author then have to dash back to Newmarket to see doctor. However, before departing Cambridge manage five minute detour into Burleigh Street which yields the following treasures – a fabulous Morgan de Toi black chiffon skirt (£5.00) and an Audrey Hepburn t-shirt (£3.00) Great success!

Author has fun book about her trip around Australia by motorcycle. Reading the MS has made me yearn for stark cerulean skies of a shade one only gets in Australia. In England everything is diffused as if God smeared Vaseline on the lens through which he created the place. Soft focus creations in a country of shy sunlight.

Doctor says tests reveal I have no stomach virus. Just too much gastric fluid as I seem intent on eating myself alive. Come out to doctors to find last bus of the evening has broken down and its pissing with rain. Shout self taxi home.

Saturday 20th

Spend day on ghost writing job. Very good. At this rate I might even get it finished by the end of summer.

Sunday 21st

A cow has had twin calves on Simon’s estate. They are unbelievably cute.

Naughty Turpin has been made to wear his head collar permanently – obviously in an effort to make catching him easier. I enter the field and call him and he crosses to see me but when I put my hand up to pet him he backs off thinking I am going to grab the collar. Three things I refuse to put up with in my life: badly behaved kids, dogs and horses. If there is any chance I may get to ride this horse I need him easy to catch as I’m not about to play tag with half a ton of horseflesh that can run a damn sight faster than I can.

I walk away and stand there with my back to him. Sure enough, a few seconds later there’s the sound of hooves and heavy breathing right behind me. I don’t turn and I don’t move. Sound of horse moving closer. Horse then puts his chin on my shoulder and gives a deep sigh. I do nothing. Horse then puts his cheek next to mine. No response. Horse moves and stands right in front of me. He blows in my face and when I still fail to react gives me a big horse kiss as if to say ‘Look, I was only kidding, okay? I’ll let you catch me. We’ll go out!’ Why does this remind me of so many men I know? The moment you lose interest in them they’re all over you.

Grab his head collar to make my point and he stands there looking contrite. Now we’ve re-established who’s boss I let him go and he reverts to his usual behaviour of following me around the paddock like a puppy and then when he feels he’s not getting enough attention blocking my path. Males of any species. I ask you.

Come home and feel a bit odd. Fall asleep on the couch and have a strange dream about God. God I might add has been curiously abis enough to scare anyone.

Wendy and I give a talk in Ely library to a nice reading group. Afterwards they give me £10 to donate to Greenpeace as I told them I didn’t want a fee – yes, I know that would have been £5 split between Wendy and myself but what does five quid buy you nowadays? Wendy and I decamp to Costa’s where of course, the £10 would have paid for coffees with change to spare.

Go home and experience existential crisis of monumental proportions which culminates in me asking my friend Andrew for advice even if he does live in Australia and not speak English as a result. For someone who doesn’t grasp the subtleties of it, he’s pretty damn good at summing up my current plight but am upset and sleep very badly as a result.

Wednesday 24th

Head to London for interview with recruitment consultant whose offices are in Old Bond Street. Not only that – they are two doors up from Prada. Danger! Danger Will Robinson! In Prada’s window is a divine pale silk coat. I want this coat. I press my nose up against the window as if attempting to somehow inhale it through the glass. I have to get a better paid job. Prada coats are waiting.

After this I go to the Army & Navy Club in Pall Mall to meet a prospective author and pioneer aviator Dr. Herbert Ellis. He’s also the inventor of the device they put on aircraft that pings to let you know how far off the deck of the aircraft carrier you are and is of course now included in expensive cars. This has made Dr. Ellis very rich indeed. He’s 89 years old and wants me to help him publish a book on Alzheimer’s. He tells me his diagnosis is that he is in the early second stage of the disease and is in fact participating in clinical trials of a new drug. He’s wonderful.

We are joined by his friend Brigadier General John Hemsley. I don’t know what I was expecting. I’d never met a Brigadier General before and for some reason had the Gilbert & Sullivan ‘Modern Major General’ song going through my head and I expected somebody rotund, red and sporting more bling than 50 Cent. Wrong. John is funny, engaging, definitely neither rotund nor red in the face and the jacket of his pin-stripe suit is minus both scrambled egg and bling.

These two guys together are hilarious. At one point over lunch Herbert enquires as to my marital status. I reply that if either of them knows an eligible gentleman perhaps they would be so kind as to introduce us at which point Herbert tells me that before I come down to stay at his house in Sussex I should know that his second wife Jean is not terribly bright and he didn’t marry his intellectual equal. ‘Oh for heaven’s sake, Herbert,’ counters the Brigadier. ‘You can’t marry every intelligent woman you meet and besides – you’re old enough to be her grandfather.’

‘I know that,’ Herbert replies. ‘I’m 89 years old. I’m not functional.’

‘So what kind of chap are you looking for?’ John asks me.

‘Intelligent, creative, kind, loves animals . . ‘

‘Rich?’ suggests John.

‘It’s not mandatory but it would help,’ I admit. ‘Plus he must like Aston Martin’s,’ I add as an afterthought. ‘Again, he doesn’t actually have to have one but if he did that would be a big plus.’

‘So, you’re looking for someone intelligent, creative, kind, who likes animals and Aston Martins and who possibly has one and some money? You don’t want much, do you?’

‘And functional,’ pipes up Herbert who has been silent up until now. ‘Chap’s got to be functional. No damn use to her otherwise.’

Like I said – hilarious.

After lunch we retire to the drawing room – a wonderful room furnished in apricot and a green similar to the Prada coat. Consume two ports with John then we put Herbert into a cab and John gallantly walks me to Piccadilly Circus tube. It’s been a wonderful lunch and the two of us resolve to push the project along to the best of our ability. I depart feeling I have made two wonderful new friends.

Already rather pissed I meet up with Sam at the Angel. It’s a lovely mild evening and we sit outside the pub where I unwisely consume more alcohol before heading to Kings Cross to catch the 9.15 train.

I remember getting on the train and taking a seat. I remember reflecting on the lovely day and how it has been a vast improvement on the previous one. In fact, there has been no comparison. Must have closed eyes as the next time I open them there’s an announcement that we are approaching Ely. Ely!!!! Whatever happened to Cambridge? OMFG. I’ve gone past my station and missed my connection home.

When I get out at Ely it’s pissing with rain and the last bus left five hours ago. Have to call a cab. It costs £26 for a taxi to go from Ely to Exning. That will learn me to drink after little sleep and an existential crisis. Only have self to blame. Am lucky I didn’t end up in King’s Lynn. Am lucky all round. It really has been a great day.

Twin calves on Simon's estate


Uptight & Personal Diary Entry Tuesday 16th March

30 03 2010

Tuesday 16th

Lovely submission from an author of her African photography complete with very moving words. Occasionally I get a gem crossing my desk.

Uptight & Personal Diary Entry Monday 15th March

17 03 2010

Monday 15th

With little sleep, a monster hangover and a fizzog that looks like a Big Day Out for dermatologists, I head to London. Am supposed to meet a prospective Melrose author at his club – the Royal Overseas League at 12.30. Pass my usual watering hole The Ritz on my way there looking positively spring-like with daffodils in its window boxes. I am soon to find myself yearning to be back inside its welcoming trompe l’oeil dining room as due to the timing of the meeting I naturally assumed 12.30 would involve lunch at the club. No such luck. I sit there for an hour and a half over two glasses of sparkling mineral water (due to hangover), and a growling stomach while I answer questions that I could have dealt with via email. Finally the prospective author says he has to go and remarks that it wouldn’t have taken me long to get there from Ely. Grumpily I tell him it took an hour and three quarters at which point he goes very quiet.

Seeing as The Ritz is far from my budget I decide to walk to Tibits via the National Geographic shop on Regent Street so I can check out camera cases. Range of camera cases disappointing and it looks as Amazon US is my best option. Tibits however never fails to disappoint and I treat myself to a long and sensual luncheon which I linger over with much emphasis on their jalapenos and cheesecake before setting out on a sentimental journey to see how many of my old Soho haunts still exist.

Am very pleased to report that my favourite wine bar on Kingley Street, Shampers is exactly how I left it all those years ago as is the Trattoria Aldo on Greek Street. Sometimes it’s as if I have been away no time at all. Make mental note to patronise one or both next time I’m in town.

Head off to The Angel to hook up with Sam. While waiting for him outside the station I am accosted by a zealous but harmless Ethiopian woman who wants me to accept Jesus Christ as my lord and saviour. Conviction radiates from every atom of her being. She’s shiny-eyed with intent. As gently as I can I tell her I’m a Buddhist. This is no help. It seems both the Dalai Lama and me will burn in hell or else be left here to endure the Tribulation come the Rapture. She insists on reading me Bible passages and by now I’m desperate for Sam to come and rescue me but there’s no sign of him. Now she wants my mobile number so she can take me to one of the many chapels scattered across the capital that she frequents on a nightly basis.

By the time Sam arrives I need a drink to recover from all this prosthelytizing especially as I ditched the hangover symptoms several hours ago.

Fill Sam in on my evil plan to have a ‘Tat room’ in my otherwise tastefully decorated mansion as a means of weeding out hangers on when I’m rich and infamous. Prospective friends will be shown into a room that will be monumental in its ability to push the boundaries of what normally is defined as ‘kitsch’. An assault of the aesthetic senses that only an industrial dose of downers or a seeing-eye dog can counteract. We are talking furlene carpet – on the walls and ceiling as well as the floor. Original artworks from China of dogs dressed as generals, Venus de Milo teardrop lamps (none of that tasteful lava stuff for me!), leopard print couches, tasteless bric-a-brac and a genuine Formica bar adorned with drinking birds from which one can serve ones guests Babycham. The fun of course is that one will have web cams hidden amongst the shag pile walls and other atrocities and then excuse oneself to go to the kitchen to fetch tasteful hors d’oeuvres (i.e. – pineapple, cubes of cheese and mini gherkins on cocktail sticks stuck into half a pineapple, tinned mini cocktail sausages and aerosol cheese on Ritz crackers – even the food has to fit the theme). Once there one can then tune in and watch the reaction to ‘the room’. The test then is to see whether they will pretend they like it to your face in order to freeload. A DVD would of course be sent to them after their evening (should they not tell you the room is an abomination or decide they can’t possibly be friends with people so outre despite their money), and of course, the most hilarious results posted on YouTube.

Sam immediately gets into the spirit of this thus earning himself a permanent place in my entourage. He says I have to be wearing tight leopard skin clothes so I match the couch with lots of plastic jewellery and he will in turn in true classic Lottery winner style, don a roll-neck sweater with lots of chunky silver chains and an Exxon Valdez spill of hair gel. In the words of Kath from Kath & Kim: ‘We’re effluent Kim, we’re effluent!’

I just want to sell the whole Room concept as a reality TV show. It would be so much fun and a voyeuristically gleeful way of outing people’s pretensions. Me and my white five inch heel stilettos from Romford market are ready. Any takers?

The whole ridiculous scenario has the effect of distracting me from my grief. Sleep like the dead.

Diary Sunday 14th March R.I.P Blue

14 03 2010

Saturday 13th March

Very busy with tiding up living area which is awash with what turns out to be half a wheelie-bin of papers. Then write for some time while watching my first Blu Ray purchase which is Star Trek. Take a break to see if I can visit Blue in his yard but discover the gate is locked. End up visiting a delightful big bay in Blue’s former box who is a real sook. He delicately takes three carrot pieces from me then decides he prefers lovings, Have to stand there making a fuss of him while the stable cat who also prefers lovings, tries to climb up my leg. I have the horses head and its entire weight leaning on me and trapping my arm between it and the stable door. Therefore with one hand I manage to unhook the cat. The horse then rouses itself to look at the cat and they both decide they love each other – and me. If a fellow astrologer were passing and witnessed this they would not have to ask my sign.

Sunday 14th March

The day does not start well. I awake feeling something is wrong with my fizzog but get on with things as normal – in other words, I make coffee and chat to friends and loved ones on Skype before deciding I should get ready for Cassandra’s birthday lunch. I then look in the mirror. Not only do I have a stye but I have had a huge allergic reaction to the wine I drank the night before. It was red I hasten to add. I look like I have just gone eight rounds with Mike Tyson!

In desperation I rush downstairs in search of frozen peas but there are no frozen peas – only a half packet of frozen mozzarella which I now have to clamp to the swollen fizzog now knowing why certain men would not want a girlfriend who not only would admit to having Hammer pants and then proving it by de-pantsing in front of strangers but also one whose face puffs up at the sight of two glasses of Merlot and who has to treat this with a packet of frozen cheese. I ask you.

With some time to spare I take my puffy head to Gay Kelleways yard with a bag of carrots and a tube of mints with the rationale that I can see the nice bay if I can’t see Blue. Upon arriving there I find the door to the main yard locked but a nice guy coming out of one of the houses.I wish him ‘G’day’ and ask him if the lovely bay is in his stable at which point he says ‘Yes – and he’s waiting for you.’ He joins me at the stable with a tube of mints and opens the door telling me the horses name is Kingscastle and that the horse has won many races and is a complete softy. He’s a big boy. Over 16 hands but as gentle as a lamb. My new friend, whose name is Tomas, says he is five years old and has trouble with his knees but is still racing but about to be retired probably after the present season.

We talk about horses and dogs, interests we both share and then I ask about the stables previous occupant now in the main yard – or so I think – Blue. I ask him about the ‘mouthy chestnut’ and there is a sudden silence between us. Finally he says ‘We shot him yesterday’.

I think he has to be joking. I say ‘You’re kidding.’ But he’s not. Blue was three years old. The reason he was ‘mouthy’ was exactly as I thought. He was teething. He was a big baby. What’s more- nobody had given him a name. They couldn’t be bothered. He died on a trial run when he fell and broke his leg. They called his owner. It would have cost £60,000 to fix him. The owner did not have that. They shot him. He was a commodity. Labelled the horse ‘nobody likes’ by the yard. I recall the last time I visited Blue, when he banged on his door because he wanted to come with me. I liked him. I loved him. He was a horse with personality. Highly intelligent. Beautiful. I worked with him. I taught him that biting me was not on even though I knew he was in pain with his teeth. He responded. Greeting me gently. Soft whickers of delight when he saw me approach. Wanting to go with me when I left. The horse that was too unimportant to name according to his owner was True Blue Boy to me.

I wonder what his last moments were like. As he laid there with a broken leg before they came to end it. The horse that even his owner didn’t name because he didn’t care enough about him.

The Native Americans had no name for horse. They called it ‘Big dog’. They delighted in the fact that here was a creature highly intelligent who would take you wherever you wanted to go and would be your friend for life. But to us, here in the First World, horses are just something to exploit like anything else. The reason so many thoroughbred race horses break legs in this way is because they are made to do things before their bones have matured. They are racing at three years old. Look at my new friend Kingcastle. Five years old and a winner and his knees are shot. Normally at three years old for a riding horse you are only just starting to get it used to a rider on its back – much less making it gallop miles under stressful conditions. The demise of Blue and others like him – I discover from Tomas that Blue is the second horse from the yard who has been shot this year (hello – it’s March – does anyone else see a problem here?).

I tell Tomas that if Kingscastle is to be retired to call me. I will buy him. With what I don’t know. I want to save him like I could not save Blue. I did not like the fact that nobody liked him in the yard. That nobody would give him the time to see the biting was a baby thing and that he was just highly intelligent and needed stimulation. I had no money. I did not have the £5 – 8,000 that would have been necessary to buy an untried racehorse and bring him on as my own riding horse much less what would have been necessary on top of that to keep him. There is no way to make this right. None at all.

But it’s Cassie’s birthday. I go over and in my grief and anguish drink all of the expensive bottle of Chardy I bought her and bang on about injustice while she sits and listens to me. But that’s what friends are for.

R.I.P Blue. Somebody loved you enough to give you a name.

Uptight & Personal Diary Entry March 12th

12 03 2010

Friday 12th March

Detour before work to do test. However, have found Blue who has been moved inside Gaye Kelleway’s yard as I spot him looking over his stable door as I walk to the Exning bus stop. Visiting could now pose a problem as she often has the gate to the yard locked but at least I now know where he is (and hopefully he is less bored with other horses to look at).

Strange thing relating to the collective subconscious. I’ve run across this before in Hollywood where several unconnected people simultaneously start working on similar stories with the result of course that they discover one may already be in development by the time they come to pitch the idea. My philosophy has always been that at least it shows one is plugged in. When I came to publish Sea Eyes I found several similar threads running through a couple of books including one about the Faroe Islands dolphin slaughter where a couple manage to break the interspecies communication barrier – one of them a recoding artist/musician. It was so weird that I tried to contact the author without success. Obviously I uploaded something from the ether. I’m now reading The Rapture. Not only are there similarities between the cover of that book and my own but the child protagonist in my book for those of you who haven’t read it is called Bethany Caul. The child protagonist in The Rapture – Bethany Krall. Coincidence? No whales in The Rapture yet but hey – I’m only on page 36. And for the record – it’s excellent so far.

True Blue Boy

Uptight & Personal Diary Entry March 8th

11 03 2010

Monday 8th

Cold. Matt and I have our coats on in the office reinforcing our belief that we are consigned to the workhouse. Wendy is quick to disabuse us of this notion. Melrose is NOT the workhouse. If we were in the workhouse we would get gruel. We do not get gruel let alone Krusty Brand Imitation Gruel (nine out of ten orphans can’t tell the difference). I stand corrected.

Tuesday 9th

Bored. Tell Sam I am bored so he emails me this link to this game online – Flow. Flow VERY addictive. Also see Flow is available on the PS3 network. Flow could be my downfall.


Get out at 4.30 and head to Cambridge to meet Aurore and Imelda at CB2. http://www.cb2bistro.com We are all in need of a big catch up. Two bottles of Pinio Grigio blush are consumed along with spicy chips and fish cakes.

Aurore still indentured to slave masters at Primark which is a bit like being indentured to slave masters at Melrose except with a disposable fashion option (no staff discounts at Primark – they must have based their zero-perks business model on the Melrose one).

Wednesday 10th

Two bottles of Pinio Grigio blush the night before translates into a visit to the snack truck for a bacon bap.

Prospective author has discovered damning blog entry (not mine!) about Melrose and has decided not to proceed.


Now very concerned that sooner or later I will get written about in a similar vein as Austin.

‘The staff at Melrose are on the surface pretty nice people. Austin, the so-called comissioning editor, is a laid back Irishman who spends his days dreaming about being a rock star. I went to one of his band’s gigs and must say that he is not a bad vocalist. As far as his role in Melrose goes it is a joke in very bad taste and once I saw what I’d been roped into I realised Austin had lied to me several times during our two meetings.’

They will say I spend my days dreaming about being a Hollywood screenwriter and shagging men like Zac Quinto (they would be right). Oh God.

Bored. Do not go to lunch but play Flow instead.

Break and then email Sam that I have gone an entire 46 minutes without playing Flow. When Jill departs at 4.30 return to Flow until Wendy gives me a lift to Tesco’s. Flow is now set to be my downfall. I blame Sam.

Spend my evening tidying up my bedroom. The floor is awash with three pairs of boots, sweaters, knickers of various vintages, two varieties of hair straighteners and a hair dryer, handbags that I have forgotten I owned, dirty socks, discarded towels and two pairs of brand new shoes still in their boxes along with dust bunnies, hair brushes and various books. This takes all evening but by the end I can actually see the rug and the floor for the first time in around three weeks. Go to bed pleased but feeling I have forgotten something.

Thursday 11th

Wake up at 4am remembering that I forgot to eat supper. As a result my body will not oblige and the visit to the hospital for tests is postponed. Never since I was in nappies have my bodily functions attracted so much interest. But then while other mortals collect stamps or Star Wars poseable figures, the medical profession likes to collect samples of wees and poos. Before I moved to Oz I had a friend who was a GP in Swiss Cottage. We’d arranged to go out to dinner one night and he told me to come around to the surgery at the end of his shift and we’d go from there. With the last patient out the door he suggested that while we were waiting for his partner to arrive we might like a drink and something to eat and told me that there was a bottle of wine and some pate in the practice fridge and perhaps I wouldn’t mind fetching it. Upon opening the fridge I did indeed discover a bottle of white and a slice of pate – nestling amongst the stool and urine samples. Needless to say, the desire for an aperitif left me at that point.

Visit to hospital postponed until Friday.

Discover fabulous shoe storage wheel on Amazon. I have to have one.


Uptight & Personal Diary Entry Sunday 7th & Monday 8th

8 03 2010

Sunday 7th

Very relieved to find out that Simon’s little dog Poppy is fine and that the freshly dug grave in the pet’s cemetery belongs to an ancient Labrador owned by one of Simon’s employees. However, much drama ensues afterwards when I head up to see Turpin and discover someone about to ride him (not his owner). I fall into conversation with her and learn that his owner rides him roughly once every three months (as I suspected) and that he is a former racehorse. I am told there should be no problem with taking him out myself and in fact, this would probably be welcomed as she has only been riding him a week and he is still not getting enough exercise. At this point my new acquaintance seeing that Turpin is nuzzling me for mints and having saddled him, slips off his halter in preparation for putting on his bridle. Like quicksilver Turpin bolts from the barn and then leads us a merry dance as he gallops and bucks his way around the paddock. At one point we split up and I call him to me while the would-be rider sneaks up behind him. He’s just about to let me grab him when he spots the other woman at his rear and tears off past me.

It ends up with the poor woman having to go get her husband and the three of us eventually herding him into a corner of the paddock at which point he gracefully capitulates and allows himself to be bridled. I am told despite all this he is a lamb once you are mounted on him and the bad behaviour is confined solely to the catching process.

For those of you who have followed Turf’s Up! you know that the bay racehorse was named Turpin and this is why this horse earned this particular moniker. Rowie and I envisaged Daniel Craig voicing the horse if the film got made and it makes discovering Turpin’s ‘real’ name – i.e. his racehorse name, all the more satisfying as it turns out to be Bond 007. Unlike Bond however, this is yet another male who doesn’t want to be ridden.

Monday 8th

A friend of mine, Louie Psihoyos has won an Academy Award for The Cove. This is good news and perhaps incentive to do something about my own docco.

Continuing the horse theme I have received a submission at Melrose entitled ‘The Horse – a Magical Tour’. In a misplaced bout of optimism I even look forward to the Reader’s Report on this. In the words of my predecessor Austin, ‘I will use extracts from the Reader’s Report that I have had prepared to illustrate my findings:’

‘Before getting down to details, there is something I ought to clarify. If all you’ve read of it is the introductory pages (which I believe are a sort of preface rather than a synopsis and are meant to be part of the manuscript), you may have received a wholly wrong impression. Perhaps in an attempt to make his manuscript seem sensational, the author has focused on two areas – human sexual relations with horses and violent abuse of them.’

Another triumph for Melrose. First it’s bum-fucking lawyers, next it’s bestiality.

As if this isn’t bad enough I once again have to report to Nick with my sign-ups like some educationally sub-normal school student who keeps on flunking their grades. Fortunately there have been two since our last meeting but am of course told I must phone up the old ladies and be much more persuasive in getting them to part with their pensions as of tomorrow. Am not comfortable with any of this. Decide to conduct experiment. Plan on making a couple of calls and then telling the Powers that Be that not only have I never done a sales job, my job title says nothing about sales and I am not about to start doing one now. This is purely to see what they might do.

Watch this space.