Sunday, February 22, 2009

The week in short:

Monday; winter blues seemed dissipated. Work okay. Chorus okay too.

Tuesday; good day at work, went talk to a man about a play and some photographs in the evening.

Wednesday: Spent the morning doing market research and the afternoon doing my own research. Left work late as a result and then got delayed on the way home.

Thursday: Was so-so.

Friday: Lunched with Ping which was pleasant. Spent the afternoon expecting a phone call that never came but got useful work done in the meantime. Went out to a Chorus social in the evening. Felt old and grumpy and wanted them to turn the music down.

Saturday: Went along to a St John Ambulance induction in the morning (disorganised), met up with Brett to do the Byzantium exhibition at the Royal Academy in the afternoon (overcrowded and not well laid-out) and on to Greenwich for a movie in the evening. (The movie was meant to be Benjamin Button, but traffic chaos meant it took us an hour to get there so we watched ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ instead which was formula Hollywood RomCom.)

Tomorrow will be household chores in the morning and a photoshoot with Jerry H from Chorus in the afternoon.

That’s my week. Winter Blues/Mid-Life crisis still have me in the dumps.

Message Ends.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Day at the Alhambra

It’s Valentine’s Day today, also Brett’s nephew John-Paul’s birthday. The trip to the Alhambra wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Arriving early meant we missed the worst of the crowds as planned. We didn’t miss all the crowds however and I found myself continually frustrated as other tourists kept getting in the way of my lens. In fact, as a photography outing it was really disappointing; I hadn’t reconnoitred, so I was winging it entirely and I had to make the best of what equipment and light was available, so what I took amount to just holiday snapshots. Maybe one or two of them will be decent.

I also found my tolerance for people didn’t take long to wear away again. It was more relaxing though once we’d finished with the Palaces and the Alcazaba and were strolling through the Medina to the Generalife. The Medina is mostly gardens these days, with occasional old ruins along the way, so quite peaceful and green. The oranges weren’t quite ripe on the trees, but they were colourful enough to give the effect, and there was the warm, moist smell of nature as you walked through the trees and hedgerows.

Large parts of the Generalife were being renovated and so were closed off, which meant the crowd was more concentrated in the areas which were open. That spoiled the effect somewhat, as part of the attraction of the Generalife is the quiet seclusion you can find amongst its shaded walkways.

While the day had its moments, I was quite glad when it was over. The lift and relaxation I’d felt the previous evening had evaporated and I was tired and longing for solitude again.

We stopped for lunch at a little roadside restaurant on the way down from the Alhambra. It was quite picturesque; being situated on the side of the hill the terrace had views off to the Nasrid Palaces on one side and over the outskirts of Granada towards the Sierra Nevada on the other. The weather had turned out nicely; having been close to freezing when we arrived (in our shorts!), the sun was now up and very pleasantly warm. We were after tapas for lunch and they had a selection – although we should have ordered a salad too if we were going to eat traditionally Spanish! As it was we basically ate deep-fried carbohydrates with some jamon serrano and manchego. I sent a (rather smug) text-message ‘postcard’ to the few friends who knew we were away, then we settled-up and made our way home.

I was pretty drained by the time got back. Rosie cooked dinner for us and we had ice cream for dessert (too much of it, in my case.) We watched De-Lovely at my request, because I love the songs. I’d forgotten that it’s actually a rather depressing movie. Went to bed early when it was done.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Woke up at the usual time but before everyone else. Showered then breakfasted continental-style. The apartment is cold when the sun isn’t on it but there was plenty of hot water so the shower wasn’t unpleasant and the heater unit had warmed the lounge by the time I sat down to eat.

After breakfast I grabbed my camera and wandered down to the beach. It’s a bit dirty, but not unusable and I was able to make use of the jetsam in some photographs. It’s February so even in Spain the air is chilly, but when the sun comes out it’s very pleasant.

Back at the apartment Brett and Rosie were breakfasting. The sun hadn’t come round to our garden area yet, so we went around to the pool area and read in the sun for an hour or so, by which time we could come back and lunch in the sun behind our apartment. Rosie and I took a drive into Mijas-Costa and had a look around; very pleasant, not too touristy.

Dined-in on chicken stir-fry before sitting down to watch Wanted, which was a movie I’d wanted to see in the cinema but as it turned out to be a little too far-fetched I was glad not to have spent the money on it. After the movie we pondered what to do tomorrow and settled on a trip to the Alhambra Palace. I did a quick bit of research via the reception building’s wifi and we agreed on an early start, so got an early night.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Escape to Andalusia

The journey out here was uneventful. We timed our departure so that we got to Heathrow in time for a coffee and twenty minutes relaxing, before heading to the gate just as they began boarding. The flight was fine – apart from the fact that Brett’s luggage wasn’t on board; the curse of Terminal Five clearly hasn’t been completely lifted. On arrival we picked up a very sporty Seat Leon from Avis. It’s a joy to drive.

I’d gone to great lengths last night to program the location of our apartments into the SatNav but in practice, when we got here, the roads it was expecting weren’t there – and some of them looked like they never had been! We spent over an hour trying to make sense of it, before giving in and calling the apartments for directions. We called in at a Mercadona for supplies on the way and while Brett was sorting out the ticket for parking, I managed to back our lovely little car into a pillar. That had to be the absolute low-point of a bad couple of hours. Fortunately, not too much damage was done; the pillar left some debris on the bumper and a few marks, but it isn’t serious.

We got to the apartments, endured the check-in routine and then finally sat down with a coffee and a snack to unwind.

Even though we’d bought supplies, we went out to the on-campus restaurant for dinner. Las Casitas’ menu was entirely British but didn’t look bad. Brett started with homemade mushroom soup which he assured me was very tasty. My own ‘fruit jewels in raspberry coulis’ turned out to be cubes of pineapple and not-quite-ripe melon drizzled with the raspberry syrup you use on ice cream. We’d ordered a bottle of red to wash it down which was a bit rough. Our waitress reminded me a lot of Shirley Valentine. She’d recommended the homemade steak and ale pie which we both ordered, but which turned out to be cold in the centre when it arrived. She was very apologetic and they were duly returned properly reheated. Once at the right temperature though they were actually very tasty; sizable, absolutely packed with meat and with just enough cheese baked into the crust to give you an extra savoury frisson every few bites. They were also quite large and by the time we’d finished up we were both well-stuffed. We declined dessert (although there’s a homemade bread and butter pudding on the menu I think I’ll want to try later!) and ducked out just before the animator got going with a quiz.

Rosie arrived from the airport almost as soon as we got back to the apartment, bitching about systems failures and class of clientele on Monarch airlines.

She liked the apartment though – and it is quite lovely. It’s on two floors with a terrace off the lounge and a balcony off the main bedroom. They both look out over a small shared garden area to the tennis courts and a wooded hillside beyond – all very peaceful and rural feeling considering the reception building looks over the car park to the main A7 coastal road. The apartment complex is generally attractive and well kept; quite Moorish in its design with narrow little ‘streets’ of apartments decorated with greenery, pergolas and little water features.

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Rain and Spain

Not a bad day today, although my early good intentions were whittled away by trivia that consumed a lot of the day. When I did look at that damned strategy paper, I only managed a few sentences before the pavlovian aversion took over and I found excuses to do other things.

The weather has been heavy rain all day and because it was Chorus this evening I was on the train, resulting in damp trousers and soaked socks for half the morning and then again this evening during rehearsal. Blah. We left after tea break; having had enough.

The highlight of today though was booking the trip to Andalusia for Thursday. We’re doing a very long weekend on as small a budget as we can get away with. I’m just going to cut myself off from the rest of the world and read and (believe it or not!) probably just lie in the sun all day. Rosie wants to see the Alhambra Palace and I would like to go back there again, as I only saw it briefly some years back on a trip with Owen. That’s the reason why I’m taking my Nikon with me. I’m still in two minds about laptop though…

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lunch & Dinner

Friday was a strange day. I started the day really not wanting to play; on the train into work I was contemplating whether to just phone in sick and spend the day messing around in the city. In the end I just took a slow stroll along the riverfront to the office, enjoying a mocha and Danish along the way and got on with it.

The day turned out okay in the end – I got stuff done. Gavin brought in doughnuts which was nice. I took a stroll across the river to organise some Euros for Rosie and then detoured into St Paul’s Cathedral for a peaceful few minutes. By the end of the day I was fairly cheerful again.

Saturday morning I was up late after a good night’s sleep. I was meeting Joe R for lunch in Soho. After our first choice restaurant was unavailable, we headed along to Dean Street to try Steph’s, only to find that it was gone and had been replaced by a place called Prix Fixe. The name didn’t inspire confidence, but the menu looked good – a favourite Polish speciality catching Joe’s eye – so we headed in to eat. My starter wasn’t at all impressive; the crayfish and avocado salad with mango cream, turned out to be a fancy way of saying prawn cocktail, but the rest of our choices were good.

After leaving the UK to travel for a few months, Joe had finally found a job and settled in Paris back in October. He’s finding it a bitter-sweet experience (largely due to his failure until now to make much effort to learn French, I suspect!) but so far the ‘sweet’ is outweighing the ‘bitter’, so no changes are imminent. We spent a while catching up on each other’s lives and then a time contemplating our own mortality – or at least our middle-age. Now that he is settled again – and only a train ride away from London – we will probably have more frequent opportunities for this in future, which is a good thing I’d say.

Having intended only to have the set two-course lunch menu, I caved and ordered dessert too, along with the dessert wine which was delicious. That, plus he waiter bringing us complimentary cognac, meant I was quite jolly by the time we were done so didn’t mind so much that the cost of lunch had ended up closer to the cost of a reasonable dinner out!

I headed home and snoozed for an hour or so before it was time to start getting ready for our evening out.

We had tickets for Spring Awakening at the Lyric Theatre with Rosie & Mikey, the latter arriving (late) from an LGBT Educational Conference draped in a Pride flag signed by Sir Ian McKellen which he wore for the entire evening…

The show itself, “High School Musical meets Bertold Brecht,” didn’t impress me as much as I had expected. Having read only one review and knowing it had won several awards on Broadway, I had been expecting to be blown away – but wasn’t. In the end I think John H summed it up rather nicely in his comment on Brett’s Facebook status; “It's fab if you read the Independent or Telegraph whose ageing critics are desperate to be seen to be hip, but crap if you follow the Standard, Times, FT, Guardian all of whom thought it was average at best. Mostly, it's inaudible or at least indistinct, so you're spared the banality of the lyrics. But the staging is good and those kids from Arts-Ed give it all they've got, some of the boys are comely, and a couple of the choonz are OK.”

I thought the staging was interesting – although I didn’t quite get the need for so much neon in the auditorium. Seating the cast in the audience between their scenes reminded me fondly of our school production of Unman, Wittering and Zigo where, as John Ebony, I was the only character actually on the stage for most of the show, the pupils being sat in the first two rows of the audience.

This morning I had another long, enjoyable lie-in; I didn’t get up until gone 10am. The good intentions I’d had of getting either Ruth or Mikey to sit for a portrait shoot hadn’t come to anything, so the day was spent reading and then doing chores. The reading was self-indulgence but the chores were long overdue.

This evening we had a date with Rod & Jess for dinner at their new place in Wimbledon. It’s a lovely basement flat in an old Rectory with lots of quirky features and lots of space. They’ve only been in it a week, so they were still getting sorted but I think they’ll be very happy there. Jess cooked up a lovely seafood pilaf followed by blackberry cheesecake. There was also some lovely wine which I could only have a few sips of as the designated driver…

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A SAD Week

Monday night didn’t freeze as hard as had been expected so there wasn’t much ice around on the roads and I cycled to work, not really wanting to risk reduced rail services and packed ice on the pavements. Everyone made it in okay. The only non-standard note in an otherwise mundane day was Mikey calling me up mid-afternoon to join him for a coffee. He was showing his friend Shlomi around London and they were along the South Bank. We all had coffee at Eat and it decompressed me enough that I got some useful stuff done in the office afterwards.

The rest of the week though I’ve been totally hopeless. I have no enthusiasm for work at all. I get through the day on automatic pilot and do as little as I can possibly get away with – something which is a really bad idea in the business-planning season when I’m setting my agenda for the next three years potentially. I’m seriously thinking that I might be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder; I am just depressed for no really good reason and I am hankering to escape the routine.

Brett suggested it might have been a mistake to skip going to Spain with my sister. He's right, but we are also trying to save money so it was the right decision. That said, I checked on the BA website and we could easily do the trip on our accumulated air-miles, so I think it’s back on the table; I could really do with a long weekend in a warm and sunny place a long way from the hassle of London. Sri Lanka at the end of March is just too far away.

In other news, I lunched with Owen on Wednesday and John Mc on Thursday – both enjoyable interludes in themselves, but not enough to lift the funk. John and I were talking about cycling; we’re going to skip the Easter Cycling Holiday idea as it’s too close to Sri Lanka and probably do something one of the May Bank Holidays. He also suggested cycling to Paris in July, to be there for the end of the Tour De France. Sounded like not a bad idea as Richard has a flat there we could stay in, so would be a relatively cheap break.

On a whim to try and lift my mood we went out for dinner and a movie in Greenwich after work on Wednesday. We saw Milk which is really rather an uplifting movie despite its sad ending. It felt both very real and yet (quite bizarrely!) that it was a tale of a happier, more innocent, more friendly age.

Off to bed now. The forecast is apparently for snow in London tomorrow. It either needs to come heavily overnight so we can all have a day of “Working From Home” again tomorrow, or else be a light dusting that doesn’t settle or interfere with anything at all. Let’s see what happens…

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow Day

Well, after a heavy night and only four hours sleep, I was remarkably compos mentis on Sunday morning which was a pleasant surprise. Kosmic Karma was not to be outdone though as sobriety brought the realisation that I’d fired off random stream-of-consciousness emails to a couple of people whilst sobering up in the small hours; the email equivalent of drunk-dialling. It was nothing earth-shatteringly bad but enough that I had to apologise to people on Sunday…

We had been scheduled to celebrate the Chinese New Year with Ruth & Chris over dim sum in Docklands, but Ruth wasn’t well and called it off first thing. We breakfasted in Greenwich instead but too late to catch any of the lunchtime movie showings afterwards. We headed home with good intentions of chores and then an evening showing, but in the end they all came to nothing and we couch-potatoed the day away – although I did do some work on Rosie’s photographs from Saturday.

Today has been all about snow; we had a few flurries of small flakes in Greenwich but on Sunday evening it started coming down properly. Overnight it laid down six-to-eight inches over parts of south-east England. We only really had a few inches around Catford, but the general disruption was tremendous. The buses were all off, the suburban trains were all cancelled. I understand the airports were closed too. I am well equipped to work from home and did that for the morning, but it was clear that there wasn’t much happening anywhere in the UK today, so by lunchtime I’d drifted back to the computer.

Having somehow gotten Brett’s Mac into a disk-thrashing loop last night, this morning it seemed to sort itself out on reboot so I spent a while arranging to move my user profile off the system disk onto a dedicated data RAID he bought recently. It didn’t take long to figure out and I think it may help get the machine back on its feet as it’s been running awfully slowly of late.

Finished the afternoon by polishing up a few more photographs which you can see here.

Tomorrow looks like it could be a bad day as it’s freezing overnight. Could be another day holed-up in the house…

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Chorus Christmas Party 2008/09

Today was a good day; late start, then spent a while clearing up the living room. Brett had left early to audition for Big Brother and I had my sister coming over for a portrait shoot. All went according to plan and had a good session with Rosie. I found I got more out of the low-key section than the high-key section, probably because high-key feels like it needs more energy and there just isn’t enough room to run and jump around in our lounge, even with the furniture cleared out of the way. The low-key stuff was more thoughtful and artistic, which to be honest is where my interest lies.

The best thing though was that I did good work with my home studio setup. I need to get a few more people in there and I’ll have enough decent stuff to put up on a website and call it a photography business! (Ruth, darling, you’re next…)

This evening was the LGMC’s Christmas Party; the annual extravaganza of drink, in-house talent and semi-serious awards for the best and worst of our number. A good time was had by all I think. I took quite a few photographs, which will be on Facebook shortly, for those who know where to find these things. I drank perhaps a little more than I should – hence why I’m blogging at this time of night instead of sleeping! Need to sober up before I can put my head down.