Saturday, November 25, 2006

The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Oscar Wilde

Don't forget to check out the catch-up posts that follow this one, making up for lost time, literally on Thursday and Friday. As I'm going out tonight to watch Jools Holland play at the Guildhall with his legendary big band, I thought it safest to blog now after the omissions of the last two days!

Another strange dream last night, this time about tiny green insects that were living under the skin on the soles of my feet - tell me it's just the silly amount of gin house doubles I consumed last night, please?

Gin is known as a depressant, but I rarely experience it this way at the point that I'm drinking, although it does often affect my moods the following day. Alcohol pretty much always does, though.

In order to counter this, today I am having a very gentle day, concentrating on being exceptionally nice to myself. I slept in late, have spent the morning blogging while listening to the soundtrack from Wicked. I couldn't resist it, I had to buy it yesterday and I suspect it will not leave my stereo for quite some time. I even cried this morning at two of the songs: I'm Not That Girl and For Good. I am so wildly sentimental.

Last week, the Chief shared a quote with me from Richard Bach, and this morning I got quite addicted to looking at Bach's work, which, if you're not familiar with it, usually involves spiritual and/or philosophical exploration. So, Bach is today's inspiration for:

Quotes of the day

The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.

We're all the sons of God, or children of the Is, or ideas of the Mind, or however else you want to say it.

"There is no problem so big that it cannot be run away from."...

"You're quoting Snoopy the dog, I believe?"

"I'll quote the truth wherever I find it thank you."

Don't be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.

That's what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we've changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.

We're the bridge across forever, arching above the sea, adventuring for our pleasure, living mysteries for the fun of it, choosing disasters triumphs challenges impossible odds, testing ourselves over and again, learning love and love and LOVE!

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Happy tears before breakfast

2. Thinking of love

3. Kit-Kat in her dungarees!

The Long Good Friday

We didn't get home from London until the early hours of the morning and I was wide awake and restless. To cure this over-excited toddler tiredness, I decided I would watch an episode of House. Of course, although a brilliant idea - I love House - it was also an awful one because it kept me awake until gone 2am. I had the most bizarre dream (yes, the vivid dreams continue, any Freudians out there, please do get in touch).

I was in a bedroom in a house that I haven't lived in for years, with a group of people I didn't know and a dog that was called Focus (how odd is that, on a scale of one to weird). I heard a noise outside and I went to the window to look out. Above me, there were three men leaning out of another window. They reminded me of Statler and Waldorf (the two commentators in the theatre box in the Muppets), except there were three of them. When I shouted up a greeting to them, they looked thoroughly disapproving and so I went back inside, a little aggrieved.

I sat down on the bed and began to join in the conversation going on with the people I didn't know, but Focus (the dog) jumped onto the bed and kept making this utterly bizarre and high-pitched whining sound and I couldn't hear what anyone was saying. I kept telling the dog to be quiet, and so the last words I said in the dream were "Focus! Be Quiet!"

I'm wondering if the hidden meaning is that I should meditate more.

Work was an interesting adventure. The Chief was in great spirits while Miss Sally and I struggled to stay awake at our desks. I have no idea how where he was getting the energy from. It must be the porridge - I need to quit skipping breakfast.

When the day ended, the Chief offered to accompany me to a showing of Al Gore's doucmentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It was a very early showing, starting at 6.30pm, and we had half an hour to change and eat before meeting again and jogging down to No 6 cinema in the Historic Dockyard.

The Chief has an advantage when we're in a hurry, as he's six foot three and I'm five foot nothing. His legs must be twice the length of mine (yes, it's probably an exaggeration) and he thought it was hilarious as I jogged along next to him as we rushed to make it in time.

No 6 was the busiest I've ever seen it and there were a lot of familiar faces there from the Council (many of whom I suspect accepted a freebie entry from the owner, which I'm not sure I agree with - it's a lovely offer, but this is independent cinema, people, and needs all the financial support it can get). There was a brief intro from a representative of the Environment Agency and then the film started.

There's no alternative really, I have to swear. Shit. People, you have to see this film. I mean it.

You don't have to agree with the case he's making, you don't have to agree with his conclusions, but everyone should be part of this debate. Besides, it's one of the most skilfully made political documentaries I've seen since Fahrenheit 911, Roger and Me or Bowling for Columbine.

Last night Al Gore made me cry and you don't get to say that often. No 6 has extended the showings, so if you missed last night, don't worry. You can see An Inconvenient Truth at No 6 tonight at 6.30 pm, Weds 29th at 8pm or on Thursday 30th at 6.30pm and I strongly advise you to.

There was a panel discussion following the show with various representatives, but the Chief and I blew this off in favour of our own post-film discussion over gin and beer (not combined, my gin, his beer), which was probably far less heated than the panel discussion back at No 6, but infinitely preferable. We stayed out late and I had consumed a considerable amount of house doubles by the time we left and trotted home in the rain.

I fell into bed, watched an episode of House (I love House, I'll be lost when the series is over, I'm almost at the last disc of the set) and fell into a deep sleep.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. The terrible power of watching glaciers fall into the ocean

2. Late night drinks and discussions

3. The power of contrast - watching pretty boys dance after watching the end of the world

Oops, I did it again. Twice.

Two days without the blog is unheard of. I can only tell you it was not part of the plan. The last two days have been so jam packed that the blog was left flailing and alone by the wayside. On the other hand, this is a good thing because, having picked it up again, now I get to fill you in on all that's been happening while we've been gone.

Thursday was a delectable day. The Chief, Miss Sally, Lisa and I all journeyed up to the big cheese, London, for a day of poshness and musical wonder. We worked in the morning, although Miss Sally and I were so over-excited about going that we had to struggle through our daily duties until Lisa and the Chief arrived and we were off.

We listened to disco divaness all the way to London and went straight for coffe when we arrived, in this lovely place called Tinto's, which is an old favourite haunt of the Chief's. It was busy when we first arrived but calmed down when we took our seats.

We relaxed with lattes and then Lisa opened her book and brought out a copy of.....................

That's right, the first hard copy of her new book. Every writer knows, or has dreamt about what this moment means. It's the sum of all Lisa's hard work and more than the hard work, I think, is the consistent faith that she has had in one central idea. I feel really proud of Lisa, and so lucky to have met her. She is a constant inspiration to me, especially because, like all the best people, she has no idea how amazing she is.

Can't wait for my copy. Have I mentioned you can advance order it from Amazon? And don't forget to grab a regular slice of thinking pink on Lisa's blog:

From the coffee shop, we caught the Tube to Harvey Nichols, which was an entirely new experience to me, as you can imagine. It's a crazy shiny world in Harvey Nichols, every beautiful item you could imagine is in this shop, and it's polished to within an inch of its essence so that it gleams from the shelves at you. The perfumes float across the air in sweet clouds, the clothes drape themselves luxuriously over their racks, and every kind of bijou nestles temptingly on its shelf, winking invitingly under twinkling Christmas lights.

For me, so much beauty begged the question, why doesn't everyone in here - especially the ones with the bulging bags of shopping from each floor - look happier? And why does everything have to be so expensive? I know it's a silly question - Sarah, it's Harvey bloody Nichols - but I come back to it all the time. Why does it all have to cost so much? Was it made on the Moon and shipped in; are we covering the cost of rocket fuel? I can't help but think sometimes that the rich make these places in order to justify having so much money, I know it's a wild idea. A self-fulfiling prophecy, if you will. But doesn't anyone see the irony of putting a £5000 price tag on a Buddha?!

My favourite part was less the things in the shop - although and perhaps because, I'm as partial to temptation as the next person (there was a lovely purple coat with skulls embroidered onto it that cost £2000 or so) - than the pink sparkle we drank in the bar on the 5th floor. I sat people watching next to the Chief (who has the sharpest eye for observing people, he's a regular Sherlock) and felt utterly over-indulged. It was wonderful. Although, of course, if I went there every day, Harvey Nichols would eat my soul clean out of my cerebral cortex, with sharp and expensive teeth. Fact.

But the overwhelmingly, back-archingly, soul-achingly best part of the day was the evening. We went to see a performance of Wicked (did you guess this already?) at the Apollo Theatre. I won't tell you too much about it, it's the self-billed 'Untold story of the Witches of Oz' and is based on the wonderful book from Gregory Maguire of the same name. The story follows the life of the Elphaba, Wicked Witch of the West (Maguire named her by taking the initials of Lyman Frank Baum - eLFaBa -you see what he did) and Glinda the Good of Oz. But it's really about much more than that.

The first scene contains the lines:

Ozian: Glinda, why does wickedness happen?
Glinda: That's a good question; one that many people find confusifying. Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?

Wicked asks the fundamental question of what good and evil really are. Is anyone entirely good or entirely wicked? The story is also about love, insecurity, the arbitrary nature of personal evolution, our notions of beauty and virtue, loss and for me, most of all, friendship. The song that had Clarky and I crying surreptitiously was a duet between Glinda and Elpheba called, For Good. But of course, you'd have to go and see it to hear it (as it were), and believe me, you should. But should you need further proof, check out the website:

Thursday was one of the best days I've had for a long time, for so many reasons. I don't make new friends often - most of the people closest to me I've known for many years - and spending the day with these three people, the Chief, Lisa and Miss Sally, made me feel very lucky.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Forgetting the blog, which means I get to do three posts in one day to restore my virtue

2. The best ships

3. Watching the Chief dance in the car on the way to London

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. H G Wells

I've been thinking about it all day. It feels like a cerebral itch. I can't stand it. It's one of those things that will go around and around in my mind, round like a spiral in a circle, like a wheel within a wheel. Never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning wheel. Oh, no, wait - that's the windmills of my mind, my mistake. Anyway, suffice to say it's been driving me crazy.

Who are gh and tr? Please, I have to know. I've scoured my mobile phone, and all of my address books and I can't place these initials at all - give me a clue at least!? If it was just g and t, I'd know it was the spirit of my favourite tipple.

Tonight's image is the Picture of the Day from NASA. It depicts what is technically and poetically referred to as a reflection nebula. Find out more about it at:

Today was a strange sort of day at the Naval Museum. Everyone's working exceptionally hard and it's been a constant learning process for me. I had no idea that so many people were involved in the creation of the exhibitions we see in museums: designers, researchers, writers, photographers, curators, conservationists - and one person in charge who has to co-ordinate the lot. Bugsy not me, that's all I can say.

Usually the days at the Museum go past in such a whizz-bang of a blur that I have no time to think about anything other than nineteenth century sailors (nice work if you can get it). Today though, my walk home felt a little melancholy. The sights that usually fill me with a strange delight - the leaves falsely lit in gold, the chill breeze - made me feel sad. I walked home the long way, detouring through Gunwharf .

I know what you're thinking, Sarah if you're depressed, I'm not sure that Gunwharf is the right place to be - and you're right.

There are few sights more soul destroying than a residential shopping mall, but I took a trip to the book shop there and found..............drumroll...................promenade of dancing girls doing the can-can............................chain of sailors doing the hornpipe..........................................a round of auld lang syne for luck.........

WHERE'S MY COW? by Terry Pratchett.

In case I haven't talked about this book enough, it's a Discworld based book and it's absolutely fabulous, featuring such wonderful lines as:

"If you lose your cow you should report this to the Watch under the Domestic & Farmyard Animals (Lost) Act of 1809. They will swing into action with keenness and speed. Your cow will be found. If it has been impersonating other animals, it may be arrested. If you are a stupid person, do not look for your cow yourself. Never try to milk a chicken. It hardly ever works."

Obviously, I started to cheer up immediately. I'd already read this book seven times before I bought it. That's how good it is. Get a copy. Now.

When I got home I did a new meditation that connected me more usefully to the sense of loss I felt on the way home. It's the first meditation I've done using this particular mudra (the position of your hands), which is supposed to open your mind and connect you to your emotions. It certainly did that, as I felt very emotional throughout, though I didn't cry because it ruins your breathing. Twenty minutes after the meditation I was leaping about the living room like a lunatic to a cheesy Euro Happy House tune.

I'm either slowly moving closer to enlightenment, or moving slowly towards a nervous breakdown. No, that is not up for a blog vote.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Remembering Steel Magnolias: "Laughter through tears is my favourite emotion."

2. Sunset at the museum over a cold metal sea.

3. Where's my cow?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Two for the Price of One

I'm posting twice today because I missed yesterday, so don't forget to read the entry that follows this one, if you haven't already (it's almost time-travel, it really is) and understand that this means no one gets to tell me off for not writing the blog yesterday. That's the rule. I know, because I just invented it, and here in The Heights, Dailyville (though nowhere else), I'm the boss.

I have some good things to share with you today. Firstly, as I write, an email has arrived from the Portsmouth Cultural Consortium saying that No 6 cinema, the grossly underused moviehouse in the Historic Dockyard are showing the film An Inconvenient Truth on Friday night, with a discussion after in the cafe beneath the cinema. An Inconvenient Truth is Al Gore's documentary on climate change and you can find out all about it here:

See you there on Friday.

Another website that you absolutely have to check out is which is run by Laurel, a self-described "photographer- ecologist- journalist- healthcare researching- animal wrangler. She is currently spending one year living north of the Arctic Circle working on an epic photography project." Laurel's pictures of the Arctic are amazing, beautiful and, I believe, for sale - so feel free to contact her if anything takes your fancy. I'm sure she hears this a lot, but I would love to spend a year out there. I've been fascinated with extreme weather conditions -mostly from a sociological perspective, in terms of what effect that environment has on people, and their societies - for ages, ever since I read Jenny Diski's Skating to Antarctica.

Tiscali online are featuring Amy Winehouse singing live over on their site. You have five minutes to spare somewhere today and you should spend them here. This woman is exceptionally talented. Catch her singing 'Back to Black' (my favourite one, by far) and 'You Know I'm No Good.'

I'm still addicted to House and the Heights are very cold.

Three Beautiful Things

1. Being stalked by penguins

2. Meaning to read Dante's Divine Comedy

3. My enigmatic Commentors

Monday Shining

Yesterday was so good that I completely forgot to blog about it. It's rare that this happens, but as you know, sometimes it does.

I had the unique pleasure of being in the company of not just one, but two of my bosses yesterday - and this happens even more rarely than me missing the blog! - the Chief and the London boss. I had a very interesting conversation with them both about the fine art of blogging. Despite the fact that the two conversations initially happened separately (the Chief and I were out for coffee when we bumped into the London boss in Costalots, Commercial Road - and where one of the staff was lovely enough to take the address of my blog- so if you're reading, Matt, hallo), both men made the same comment - that blogging mystifies them because it's so intensely personal.

This observation flummoxed me for a little bit as I don't think about the Daily as being very personal at all. Compared to what goes into my journal, for example, the Daily is exceptionally formal. Besides, because my identity is not hidden here, there are actually strict ethical restrictions on what I can write about.

For example, it may be fascinating material to me that: recently divorced Ms X has plunged into a sweeping depression, following which she has become addicted to diet pills and is currently in hiding after pouring three tins of white paint over her ex-husband's red porsche, whilst in a frenzy of amphetamine induced rage. But there would be hell to pay if I wrote about it. Not least because I'm as good as sentencing Ms X to few months community service, but also because anyone who knows me would be able to deduce very quickly who Miss X was by mentally running through a list of my recently divorced friends (anyone thinking of attempting this, don't bother, I made her up - despite the ethical nightmare, if I had a story that good, I'd write about it even if landed my best friend in jail. I'm a writer, we can resist everything but good copy).

As a result, I have to stick mostly to positive observations about other people and talking about myself, neither of which seems like a bad thing.

In passing, I also mentioned to the London boss, a lifelong ambition of mine (ok, really it dates back a few months): to start an alternative paper to our local favourite, The News, which has enjoyed a blissful monopoly of the city's readers for far too long.

Does anyone know or remember if the city has ever had another paper?

To my surprise, he was very enthusiastic about the idea, which took me aback somewhat as it's become one of those opinions I spout all the time safe in the knowledge that I don't have the first clue about how to do it. However, the London boss is a very canny man, in my humble opinion and it didn't seem to occur to him that I couldn't do it, so the idea has now become an official consideration. All advice, volunteers and sponsorship gratefully received. Watch this space!

Starting a new paper could also have another benefit. I started The Daily because I wanted a column in the San Francisco Guardian and wanted the practice. Until my move to San Francisco (scheduled provisionally for 2008) I could start another paper right here, and I'd not only have my own column - I'd have my own newspaper. Today a newspaper, tomorrow an island empire, and the day after.............(drum roll, accompanying tense music, something with violins maybe ) .....THE WORLD!

Having enjoyed our previous discussions on the comments board on the subject of premature hair loss a few weeks ago (remember - How much hair does Hudson have?), I am again inviting your comments, but this time on the topic of the 3 beautiful things feature. I mentioned to the Chief yesterday that I am losing interest in this feature and intended to cut it.

"No," he stated firmly. "You can't. I like it. I read them every day. I like them."

The Chief's not an easy person to argue with (mostly because if he doesn't like what you're saying, he just gets up and walks away) and I was intrigued. I'm bored with it, but what do the readers think? Any thoughts or shall I just disappear them one day and see if anyone notices?

Today's Beautiful Things

1. My word of the day: flummox; verb; meaning - to perplex or bewilder

2. My cunning plan to write two blogs today in the hope that no one will complain this time that I missed a day

3. A glass of wine with the Chief as we people watch and philosophise

Sunday, November 19, 2006

In the middle of our street

I love Sundays. One of the benefits of having work expand to fill much of my life is that I really enjoy my time off. A lot. Last night, one of my closest friends, Shonagh, came over for an evening of wine and song. We haven't had a night to ourselves in months and I relished the chance to catch up. We spent some time bringing each other up to date on the chaos and charm of our daily lives and then we spent some time reminiscing about our schooldays before singing Amy Winehouse and Billy Bragg (not a duet - that would be so weird and kind of wrong).

Shonagh and I were at school together and have known each other for about twenty years, give or take. I agree with Stephen King about the friendships of childhood. It is not only rare to hold on to those friends for such a long time, but to maintain a close relationship with childhood friends when you get to be adults is even more rare.

When he was 30 or so, Stephen King wrote an amazing story about a group of friends, all around 12 years old, who go on a trip to find the dead body of a missing kid. The story is called The Body, and it was made into a film called Stand By Me that everyone - and I mean everyone - should see. It is one of Shonagh's favourite films, and one of mine - mostly because it reminds me so much of her. In the original story, King examines the nature of those friendships we form as children:

"Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?...I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12 - Jesus, did you?"
The Body, Stephen King.

Last night with Shonagh made me think for the second time this month (the first was when Howard, my friend who lives in Canada, came to visit) about who I was when I was younger: what has changed about me and what has stayed exactly the same. I wonder if the answers to any of my questions about myself can be found in these re-examinations of the past. Maybe, or maybe not, but I enjoy travelling back through the memories sometimes, nonetheless.

Today, after Shonagh left, I went back to bed for a couple of hours before heading over to Hayling Island to visit my mum and the Bean. I love Sundays with my family, perhaps for the same reason I was just describing, it takes me back to the familiar comforts of my youth. That and the fact that I have just eaten a huge roast dinner and am looking forward to several glasses of wine.

Before dinner, I scanned through my mum's DVD collection and came across the first series of House, an American medical drama starring Hugh Laurie. I love it. I mean, I really, really, and actually quite obsessively love it. Everyone should see at least one episode of House, too. Watch that after Stand By Me if you like. I watched four episodes in a row before I remembered that I was actually meant to be visiting my family, not just sharing a building with them.

I fell in love with House a little bit, the title character, played by Hugh Laurie in the series, which is strange because it makes him my third crush today. My first was on Jack Black this morning in a trailer for the Tenacious D film that's about to be released (I love Jack Black, entirely) and my second was on the most delicious man who must have been in his early twenties, and had, I swear, just stepped out of 1968. Long dreadlocks in his hair, crazy little goatee beard. Uh-huh.

All in all, a good day, filled with beauty, rest and fun. Back to work tomorrow for more of the same - minus the rest, of course.

Today's Beautiful Things

1. Er, House, Jack Black and the cute 1968 dude

2. That Sunday feeling of nothing to do

3. Multipurpose PVA (OK, not really, I just wanted to see if you were still paying attention)