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The wind's rumbling-black around the estate, so we're at least on the edge of the rags of Hurricane Ophelia. It was [personal profile] cybermule  who texted me about the red sun, and I only saw it when my bus passed into Digbeth: a flat sullen ruby-pink disk in a flat grey sky. Folk were taking pictures of it across the city; it belonged in a William Blake illustration or a Current 93 song. When I got online I found the storm had swept up dust from the Sahara and smoke from Portuguese wildfires to paint the sun. By that time the light had turned oppressive, the colour of grubby brass. Smoking on the balcony and looking back into the kitchen where I'd turned on the light, I could see how clean the electric was in comparison. In an hour the wind had scoured the sun of its apocalypse. I'll go for a walk in the morning and see how the trees have fared; at any rate we'll suffer less than poor Ireland.

I love The Prisoner dearly but I don't care much for Thomas Disch's novelisation, which might be a follow-up or reimagining, but I can't be arsed to finish it. It's not a series you can really contain in a book. Unless you're McGoohan. I've been listening more than reading in the last few days, alternating between the new albums by British Sea Power and Portico Quartet.  PQ have ditched the double bass that gave their earlier stuff backbone, but it's still a good record: it helps they've brought back the hang to colour in between the heathaze synths and minimal sax. It reminds me a little of Burial: not so much the music as the space in it. BSP's Let The Dancers Inherit The Party I'm still mulling over. The first few listens I was ready to dismiss it as a casualty of over-production: Noble's lead guitar and Abi Fry's viola-skirls lose out in the mix; there's the odd track where they seem to've regenerated into New Order, full-stop. Hit the halfway mark and it becomes so much better, moody and pensive and you wish all the album was like this. It's a slowburner but I think I dig it.

In other news I've been mentally ropy of late, enough that I've trying to arrange an appointment with my GP to see if anti-depressants or counselling might help. I went in this morning but the receptionist gave me a card with the surgery number on rather than tring to find me a place. I don't know if that's typical - haven't used the place in five years. A bit frustrating. There've been too many long grey featureless days and longer nights where nothing has happened and there's been nothing to look forward to. I haven't felt much like committing the details to DW.

I saw my first roe deer last week, in the field out back of my folks' house. I thought she was a vixen at first: that same rusty coat; but then she leapt between the the tussocks and I realised. Caught the white flash of her tail in the dusk.  Later in the dark an owl (I don't think it was a tawny) screamed like a witch.

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Saturday would have just been the usual pleasant night of seeing John if it hadn't been for what happened ten minutes from the flat. I was walking back with my headphones in and nearing the canal when some guy stopped me. I thought he was asking for a lighter; I took out my headphones and then he jabbed his hand into the inside pocket of my jacket, taking out my mobile. He was laughing. I screamed at him not to touch me or my stuff and he dropped the phone on the ground. Walked off, still laughing; there might have been a sarcastic sorry, mate but I was past caring. It was over in less than a minute, there was no violence offered, but my space was violated; I have spent most of today shaking. I got back in, melted down on Facebook and burst into tears. Took [personal profile] cybermule 's advice and took a walk around Edgbaston Reservoir, this afternoon but that was difficult. I could sit and watch the birds (a brace of swans; young gulls still in their early plumage, the colour of slush). Everyone who passed me felt to me as if they could attack in a moment. I flinched away from anyone who even glanced my way. I got back then had an afternoon of shakes and gut-grimness. If I could get a refund for most of this weekend I'd take it.

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I aten't dead! Had a benefits-related wobble yesterday. I have to complete a form every year to confirm if any circumstances (addresses etc) change. They don't. The form takes me ten seconds for me to tick, sign and date. For the last three years the office I send the form into have written back claiming it hasn't reached them: please complete another by x date otherwise your benefits could be stopped. It doesn't help they use business-class second post, which can take a week. This time they sent the letter three weeks after I'd posted the form, despite the DWP texting me to confirm they had received the form. Ugh. Had to go into my local jobcentre to sort this out and to be fair the lady who dealt with me was nothing but lovely and helpful. Told me to redo the form, offered to send it by internal post, and did me a photocopy just in case. People I can talk to I can deal with. The faceless bureaucracy is what does for me.

In nicer news I had a lovely weekend date with [personal profile] cybermule . A fairly quiet one, which is what I needed. We meandered through Wooton-under-Edge, which for a sunny Saturday was dead. The charity shops for once didn't yield much. But then she took me for a wander up my first sunken lane, just under the Edge! A canopy of oaks high overhead: steep earth banks. Knotted ivyboughs snaking up the trunks. The air cooled by quite a few degrees as you went in. A storm had grazed that part of the country just a few nights before and H pointed out where some trees had fallen since her last walk there. There was something poignant about the scatter of acorns and branches on the lane. A good pub at the base of this walk with a vineyard behind it in a little bowl of land, though I didn't do myself any favours by mistaking the tender of the vines for a scarecrow. They were burning what I think were laurel branches at the edge of the car park: little flame but a lot of sweet smoke. We also watched the documentary Being Alan Bennett (2009). There's something wrong (but hilarious) about watching AB sing Larkin's They fuck you up, your mum and dad to the tune of Last of the Summer Wine. I miss H badly.

I'm rereading a lot of Caitlin Kiernan's short stories as background to an article (just a short overview rather than an essay) I'm writing on her work. I rediscovered a couple of albums I thought I'd lost, radio sessions by Tunng, Scott Walker's Scott V which was a present from Joel and a wounder to mislay. Today was too cool to count as Indian summer but the trees along the Stratford Road were brittling into green-gold. A cloud like ginkgo leaves up in the blue.

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Today the rain looks like window bars. I hoped to get out to a film showing today on John Madin and the lost Central Library but tickets have sold out.

I got back last night from a few days spent with [personal profile] cybermule . We went up to an installation in Bath Wednesday called The Brutalist Playground, which was pretty bloody amazing: I texted John H to say It's like Ballard wrote a kids' book! All but one segment came from a real 60s playground in London: a tilted "flying saucer", a monolith of a slide, an angular tunnel you could crawl through... all built from the variegated foam they used to stuff seventies crash mat with. On the walls they were projecting photos and plans of brutalist estates: it was an eerie effect when the projections fell across peoples' faces, as if architects had designed what lay beneath the skin. I played too, half-hoping that when I came out of the tunnel I'd find myself in another decade. If I'd seen this a few months ago, The Concrete Child might have been a slightly different story. We got out into the car park and rooks were settling down to sleep in the tree above our heads; and a copper-pink full moon followed us home.

I'm juggling a few books right now. Helen Dunmore's The Greatcoat, found for fifty pence. Roy Vickery's Garlands, Conkers and Mother-Dies, on British plant-lore, found in the same charity shop. And Mark Valentine's wonderful collection of essays on landscape and literature, A Country Still All Mystery. This was an unexpected gift from the author and ranges over musings on lost fantasy novels, yew trees, the falling-place of the last English wolf, land left outside parish boundaries.. After all this I have Sarah Orne Jewitt's The Country of Pointed Firs to read. Do any of my New England friends know of this one - [personal profile] asakiyume ,[personal profile] sovay ?

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Hello! I'm not long back from a hot Bank Holiday spent in Bristol with [personal profile] cybermule . A pretty social weekend, this. H took us to a friend's wedding up at Arnos Vale cemetery. There is something cool about paper lanterns nestling in the crook of graveyard trees. Something cooler when the groom takes his wife's name as his own: I know I punched the air at that. Later there was a lot of good conversation (blurred a little by very good rhubarb cider and cans of Brewdog IPA) and some dancing. Or at least I flailed around The Cure and the Pixies for a bit. A garden party the next night where I fell over and dented my knees and head trying to sit on a wall (don't ask). But at a do where there are microbiology jokes going round it doesn't hurt to say you come from the village whose isolation hospital hosted the last recorded death from smallpox. Crappy knees aside H and I went up to Bristol to get some more dancing in at a Goth night. Sunday was less frenetic - we drove to Stroud for a little music festival there, Godspeed on the stereo. The haybails looked as if they were about to roll over the land in a slow conquest: it reminded me of Robert Westall's YA ghost story The Scarecrows. The festival wasn't the chin-stroking muso gathering we expected. Lots of kids and dogs in a marquee and slightly-bemused West Country guys doing spoken-word over backing tracks. When we left there was a band doing half decent blues/two-tone music, but the singer murdered everything. We also watched Richard Stanley's Dust Devil (1992) which still has me scratching my head. It could have been a really great numinous movie if the serial-killer elements had been handled subtly. Picked up Marcel Ayme's The Man Who Walked Through Walls and a book on British plant-lore from a charity shop for a couple of quid. Currently reading H's copy of Cloud Atlas.

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I went back to Catney yesterday. I was making myself tea when my dad asked me "So who were those two women then?" I stared at him until I knew he was actually talking to me. Here's the mystery I posed Facebook by way of "explanation":

Apparently two young American (possibly, my parents weren't sure) women wearing "badges" turned up at my folks' house last week, asking for me by the name of Mattie. Now, from the vague description I got, they're nobody I know, and not everyone knows me by that name, and I wouldn't give out my parents' address. So - who the hell were they?

For what it's worth, I don't feel like there's anything "unpleasant" there, but it perplexes and weirds me out. There was a voicemail Thursday from a number I didn't know: just two seconds of garbled sound.

Facebook thinks it's Mormons, though I've done my level best to avoid them. (Two of them - on bicycles - once tried to hail me when I was crossing a road. I don't know if it was their national Kill An Atheist Day or something.) How the fuck they got my name I don't know. But I think it's one of those unsolved things that won't affect me beyond a brief sense of unsettlement.

RIP Brian Aldiss, whose novels and short stories I was very fond of in my days of reading SF. By way of remembrance I dipped into his "best fantasy stories" collection A Romance of The Equator. I found a second-hand copy of K. J. Bishop's Decadent/New Weird novel The Etched City. (A pity she never followed it up.) I was mostly reading Mark Cocker's excellent Crow Country though it focuses mostly on rooks; I have memories of a small rookery beyond the canal. It's interesting how viewpoints can differ: he describes the calls of jackdaws as sounding like the note of flint on flint; to me they've always sounded like chuckles, a metallic but not harsh sound. Like silver. perhaps. Though I didn't see it, there was a fox calling out in the field some time after 1 am, a half-swallowed cough.

The ivy has come into flower now; in a few weeks the leek-green globes will draw in wasps. Hopefully it will bring out the Holly Blue butterfly as well, which would be welcome - there's been precious little unclouded sky lately and I'd like to see that colour somewhere.

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So, Eustace my netbook died hard last weekend, taking all my files with him. Those are utterly gone, but luckily 90% of them have either been published or got e-mailed out to beta-readers. It still stings though.Who am I kidding - it caused me a couple of bad panic attacks.  Resurrecting him took about a week. (You are the best, [personal profile] cybermule  <3) I had to sit through a whopping 162 updates today. For now (typing with crossed fingers is an arse) he's working. Borrowed time? I've been filching time for this machine a couple of years now at least.

I spent the last few days in the West Country and Wales with [personal profile] cybermule and her son. We walked a three-mile loop near Tortworth Lake; swifts skimmed the meniscus of the fields as if the grass were water. We saw the berries of cuckoo-pint burning in tree-shade and munched a handful of sloes. Later we found a pub where they really did turn from the bar to watch us come in. Luckily H is a local woman. The beer and Camembert was great but the homophobic insults the young farmer types were giving each other wouldn't make us go back. We watched Prospero's Books which is sumptuous; you want to eat this film, even if it doesn't hold you the way it did in your twenties. I still covet his books. We also saw Grant Gee's 2012 documentary Patience (After Sebald) which follows in the footsteps of W. G. Sebald's Suffolk travelogue The Rings of Saturn. It's a perfect companion to the book: monochrome, understated, laconically funny. There was sea: the beach at Barry Island, where I found pink and pale green whelks nestling in the otherwise bleak rocks. I wanted to go further out into the water than I managed but that's not the place to relearn to swim. H told me the black flecks in the sand were coaldust washed out from the Welsh valleys.

Our last night we joined H's friends to camp out a few miles out from Chepstow. We pitched the tent (I need more practice!) near a lovely beech tree just starting to gild over. There was a little metal seat behind it; you could sit and watch the motley of sun and shadow on the hills. More swifts here. And (in the morning) a buzzard circling over the campsite, low enough for a few moments to glimpse the pale bars under her wings. I woke about 2 am and listened to tawny owls hooting; getting up a couple hours later, I saw the horns of the thin moon holding earthshine.

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Hello Dreamwidth. High time I checked back in. I've ducked out of going to a friend's wedding tonight due to social anxiety wobbles (I don't know anybody there too well so I don't want to risk a bad time; had too much of nights out lately where I looked forward to it and ended up locked in myself and miserable), but I had a good night out  with John H the other night. Lots of talk about Henry James and walks around Harborne and the Black Country.

Started work on my "death by water" story, which has the placeholder title And Cold As Copper. Although I like The Going Water And The Gone too. It's a companion to the story Ashes in the Water, at least in theme, and features a Brum-minted cartwheel penny in place of the ferryman's obol.

I hope the skies clear enough tonight to watch the Perseids. I hope even more that the pissing contest between two arseholes with bad hair doesn't burn the world. I spent too much of the eighties afraid of nuclear war; I don't want that fear again.

Update on the feline volunteer in my charity shop a couple weeks back: the assistant manager took him into a local vet. He wasn't collared (the cat, I mean!) but he was microchipped. Turns out he'd wandered over from Tamworth - which is twenty, thirty miles away from Solihull? I can only think that he hitched a lift with someone. He was slim but not the gauntness I might have expected if he'd wandered on foot all the way.

Have any of you seen seen Greenaway's Prospero's Books? A friend lent me a copy (it is stupidly expensive to buy over here) and I've not watched it since the the mid-nineties. Saving it for seeing [personal profile] cybermule next week.

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I took a walk around Edgbaston Reservoir this morning. I needed to work a nasty twenty-four hour depression out of my system. I hoped to do a bit of swan-watching (I've seen them there at night, vague and pale as ghost-ships). Instead, a gullbabble, lots of coots with their neat pied heads, lots of canoeists. The water was steel-blue. I was halfway around the reservoir when the heavens opened. I huddled under the trees for a bit watching the waterworks tower loom in and out of the rain then decided to push on. The pagoda of the local Buddhist temple remained defiantly bright among all the grey. The canoefolk huddled by the weir. The boathouse was the last place I expected to find trans graffiti but it was welcome. I holed up for a while in the Reservoir Cafe, which does a mean vegetarian sausage baguette.

There were a couple of good buskers in town Sunday: in Fletchers' Walk a guy with a semi-acoustic guitar and lots of effects pedals. The music was deceptively simple, a falling melody a little like the keyboard part in Broadcast's I Found The F. Something in the timbre made me colour it in with other instruments, a beat; I wanted to write whatever film he was soundtracking. Then a guy playing dulcimer on New Street, the instrument built either out of a chunk of piano or an old table. he used to be part of a jazzy five-piece. I wondered where his bandmates were but it was lovely to hear him on his own.

I saw JH for a good catch-up Saturday night. I'd found him a copy of Frank Lloyd Wright's autobiography in Wolverhampton, the second printing from 1943, for a princely fiver. A book as big as a paving slab, not illustrated as such, but the various chapters divided up by glossy pages with Deco lines scoring them like a circuit's skeleton.

I had a nightmare this morning of reading, becoming aware that something was reading over my shoulder; turned and there was a rag doll or glove-puppet twice my height standing over me. No head to it.  The night before I dreamed of Joel, sitting curled up in some wheeled assemblage like an installation of bookshelves. That rattled me more, mostly because I either couldn't parse or remember what he was trying to tell me. The words were there when I woke, gone a few minutes later.

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The last few days have been quiet. I went back to my parents' for a bit. Read Christie's collection The Hound of Death. Met up with C for a catch-up.  Walked down to Catney via the cuts. There were two squirrels having a territorial dispute on an oak: spiral scrabbling around the trunk; it needed Yakkety Sax playing in the background - something very cartoonish in the chase. They have very soft voices, even when they're angry; I've been scolded by squirrels before for just walking under their tree and thought it was birdchitter till I looked up.

I took a notebook and tried (with various degrees of success) to find ideas for a couple of horror anthology submission calls that interested me, one of them book called Beautiful Death - Death By Water. There are only so many permutations on drowning, but many kinds of water. (I might be taking the title too literally - there's not much else in the pitch to guide you). Something like The Duke of Burgundy but with mute swans cropped up in notes; then more predictably, an anima of the canals. She shapeshifts between a woman with khaki eyes and cold hands and a sort of Midlands Mari, with the skull of a horse that once led the old narrowboats through the cuts. Let me flip a coin... The second anthology is a collection of Hallowe'en-set stories and my immediate response to this is to storify my poem Rainspeaking as a Nairns tale. Both calls end on September the first, and I doubt I'll get two stories in on time, but mentioning in case anyone wants to have a go at the water anthology. (There doesn't seem to be an online call for t'other beyond a post a Facebook friend shared.)

Work yesterday was improved yesterday by a new volunteer: a small black cat that wandered in through the fire exit on the first floor and promptly made itself at home, twining around your ankles, lifting its head to be petted, sleeping at last under the rack of clothes to go down on the shop floor. I think it must have wandered from one of the flats above the shops.. Hopefully it's safe at home now but I shan't know till next Wednesday.

The post yesterday was good to me - it brought my contributor's copies of Supernatural Tales and a paperback of BB's Lord of the Forest, the story of an oak from its seeding in the thirteenth century to the fall of its last acorn in the Second World War, illustrated (how else?) by woodcuts. It enchanted me when I was ten and turns up (when it does) online for very often stupid money. I'm currently on Nina Allan's new novel The Rift.

Lastly, have a video of the Finnish-English artist and musician Hanna Tuulikki singing a splice of old English folk songs. She even seems to angle her head and body the way birds do.

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Last weekend I did a daytrip to Hay-on-Wye with a few friends from my writers' group. Too many good bookshops for me to see them all! If you know me on Facebook, my cover photo shows me staring at the head of an early twentieth-century automaton, heavily bearded and ruddy and not looking at all happy to be in the window of an antiques shop (that's the automaton, not me, boomTISH.) I was tempted by a velvet smoking jacket, but not the hundred quid they were asking for it. Lost a lot of time in Booths' Bookshop, where I seemed to entertain my friends with a muttered running commentary on what I did or didn't find: Calvino...what, no Angela Carter, shame on you...HOW Bloody Much? Clocktower Books was chockfull of good taxidermy (we found a grey heron in a glass case next to the Dickens section in Booth's) old furniture, and an impressive natural history section; I came back with less than I expected: Borges' Labyrinths, Christie's The Hound of Death, Alistair Reynolds' rather fun Third Doctor novel Harvest of Time (it doesn't ship his relationship with Delgado's Master quite, but explores it well) and Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies, a biography by G. Peter Winnington. This last cost more than I'd like to have paid - I could have got three or four other paperbacks for the same price - but I would have kicked myself for not getting it.

Since then I've mostly been concentrating on writing. I finished The Concrete Child at half two Friday morning. It's the first story I've completed in maybe a year;  I wish I was a hack at times! (Which would mean me producing three stories in twelve months, I guess. :P) Already itching at the thought of where the next one will come from. Which leads me into a shameless bit of self-promotion - Supernatural Tales 35 is now available , featuring my story of libraries and memories, To Utter Dust, if you fancy checking it out.

I met up with [personal profile] cybermule  for a lovely and all-too-brief chat, cuddle, and pint today. I have missed her very much.  Tomorrow I'll catch up with JH and wait for Wimbledon to end so I can find out who the Thirteenth Doctor will be. Still holding out for Tilda Swinton...

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I went back to Catney to stay at my parents' house for the night. The field next door, where the Halls used to graze cattle, is all overgrown now: grass about a yard high, with rust-spots here and there where docks grow. It would have been a nightmare in the hayfever season. It was a day of soft rain, delicious to walk in; I wanted to cup my palms and drink the rain from them. At dusk, the seedheads of the grass caught the last light, the field was silver-green. Bindweed's set its trumpets in all the local hedges; woody nightshade is flowering in the verges in little purple stars.

Currently reading John Howard's new collection, Buried Shadows. It's well worth the few years' wait since his last one, full of love-notes to London and Berlin, haunted architecture (lost German railway stations, a tower at Birmingham University waiting for a new sacrifice, a church that flits through the lives of three men across sixty-odd years). Rooms might be wallpapered in hyperinflationary banknotes* or maps of the Weimar Republic. A man looks for omens for his homeland in the clouds over London; another questions identity in Thirties Portugal. It's quietly fantastic in both senses of the word.

I had to pick up a job application from Shirley today so I took an hour or two to wander around its many many charity shops. The oddest thing I found was a Turkish saz (well, three of them in fact) hanging from a wall. They looked rather like stocky lutes. I used to have a mandolin but I make a better listener than musician. Picked up a book-length study on the uncanny by Nicholas Royle (an academic rather than the Manchester-based novelist, though he does appear in a chapter on doppelgangers). The subject line is a quote from HD ([personal profile] sovay , aren't you a fan of theirs?)  used here as an epigram. Also found an Eighth Doctor novel with Alan Turing narrating (as well as Graham Greene and Joseph Heller).

*It seems apt for this particular collection that the bookmark I'm currently using is a Scottish pound note I found tied to a velvet-wrapped coconut floating in the canal.

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I spent most of the last week out West with [personal profile] cybermule [personal profile] cybermule . I introduced H to the Penny Woolcock, BSP-scored documentary From The Sea To The Land Beyond. We watched Who, Brett's Holmes, gardening programmes. We grubbed up celandine in her back garden, went out to swim (well, H and her son did, I read and watched from the shade of a yew tree) at a pool on the way to Clevedon. That day, the heat felt like a forcefield. Teenagers smoked dope and bantered in a dinghy. Saturday, we went to see Inkubus Sukkubus play at St Briavel's Castle in the Forest of Dean. The trip took us through Gloucester - there were two young lads on a horse-drawn cart at the edge of a main road. Gloucester is a place I want to spend a lot more time in. The little corner H took me through was a patchwork of time and architecture: the stubs of old priories, thirties terraces rubbing up against bits of industrial estate; a security alarm company in a half-timbered building, a park bench under a railway bridge. You'd go from graffiti of a rugby player to a spraypainted portrait of Dali with the turn of a street corner. We drank rhubarb cider and coffee-flavoured milk stout at a lovely pub called The Pelican.  Inkubus were good - they're the only Goth band I know of who've used a bodhran over a drum machine (take that Dr Avalanche!) - but the storytellers who preceded them were a bit earnest for my taste. The last day, we saw a thin fox near the coach stop, lots of ash in its coat; as my coach got into the city, I looked up from my book and saw the smoke from a factory hang absolutely still, just as if we were driving through a picture.

I've finished reading Alexandra Harris' wonderful Weatherland, a study of how England's climate has influenced its artists and writers, stretching from Beowulf to Turner's painted suns to a performance of Noyes Fludd held in a town itself prone to flooding. (The subject line is the last few words of the epilogue.) I've become fascinated by the "Claude glass", the black-tinted pocket mirror eighteenth century painters and tourists used to look at the landscape: it seems fit for a Jamesian haunting. You could also buy tinted lenses to overlay other times and weathers on the land: blue for moonlight, grey for fog, yellow for autumn.

My elderly Nokia died last week. H was lovely enough to give me a second-hand smartphone of hers. <3 I'm just getting used to a touchscreen keyboard. She also gave me a brazen crow's skull pendant, which I'm wearing now. I'll let you know if this changes anything with the local corbies....

(ETA: Not One Of Us have accepted my poem "Abhaus"! It might be out in the October issue. More news as and when.)

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So earlier I was out on the balcony. I heard a squawk and then a splat. There's a walkway right below the balcony - I looked down and there was a very dead fish lying on the concrete. Short of it being a very localised Fortean event a herring gull must have plucked it from the canal, got startled (I didn't see or hear any other birds) and dropped its catch. The fish has gone now, hopefully snatched by one of the estate cats. Earlier still, I found what I thought was a blackened bit of dead moss, a crusty thing about as big as the ball of my thumb. I trod on it by accident and it went into shiny jet fragments, shards of beetle wing cases, like insect shrapnel. As far as I can guess a crow or some other bird hawked it up, bits it couldn't digest. Makes a change from the takeaway chicken bones they usually drop.
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It might still be in the twenties tonight. It's almost eleven and there is still some light in the sky; it's cobalt up there, shading to peacock at the horizon. Tried a miniature of Minorcan gin: heavy on the juniper, velveteen one sip, edged the next. My body has been rebelling or performing little tricks I'd rather it didn't in the last few days - IBS, heartburn. Tonight one of my lower eyelids turned inside out in the shower. If that's a response to shampoo in my eye I'd rather have a good oldfashioned nictating membrane. I'll have words with my DNA.

I'm halfway through Gert Loschutz's Dark Company and I really don't know what to make of it. It seems to be the account of a German merchant sailor who lost his boat and has exiled himself to some soggy inland village. The only water that courts him now is rain, and each rainy night evokes another in his past where he was witness to or on the fringe of some murksome event: disappearances, a possible murder by folk-magic, arson. He's warned early on about the dark company - men and women in black who're ill omens to sailors - by his grandfather, who I'm starting to think is a dead man. He's gathering his own company along the way, it seems. Is he an albatross, a haunted man? It's not quite noir or straight-up weird or picaresque. Maybe a mashup of the three. There's just something missing in the novel itself - it's not an explanation; it's never bothered me if things stay a riddle, I love that  - is it a question of atmosphere, or the writing, or the translation? I want to like the novel a lot, but the rain won't quite touch me.

ETA: Shoutout to [personal profile] rydra_wong , [personal profile] lost_spook  and [personal profile] sovay - I've found out what happened after Assignment Six! They changed career and moved to Leicester.

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It's been fun watching Theresa May's plans collapse like a slow-motion Jenga tower. I don't know how scared I should be of her attempts to rope in a bunch of homophobic anti-abortionists for support. Surely that's unsustainable? With Osbourne's dead woman walking  in mind I'm surprised that nobody's yet issued a leadership challenge. I wonder how many more times she can shoot herself in the foot...

I got annoyed with my hair a couple of days back and hacked it off. Short for me, anyway.* Bobs suit me but this just reaches the corner of my jaw and I'm mixed about it: the curse of having a long neck.

I saw [personal profile] cybermule  for lunch and a quick natter yesterday. It was so good to see her! <3 The election results had cheered us both up. Not the outcome we wanted, but not the outcome we feared. Later I saw JH for drinks. He kindly gave me a copy of his collection Buried Shadows (I must not gobble this down) and lent Gert Loschutz's Dark Company: A Novel In Ten Rainy Nights. We talked about the election (inevitably!), The Prisoner, teapots and those tomato-shaped sauce dispensers you'd get in seventies greasy spoons, a recent visit he'd made to Liverpool, Kenneth Williams. I remembered a play I'd seen upstairs at The Victoria: two men playing the young and older Williams, this acidic duologue across the years; I think Joel must have been with me at that show.

Watching: working my way through the Sapphire and Steel boxset. Reading: October; The Story of the Russian Revolution by China Mieville.

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RIP Peter Sallis. Wallace couldn't have been anyone else, really. I knew him first as Cleggy on Last of the Summer Wine, which I liked as a kid, if only because it was better Sunday night viewing than Songs of Praise.

I lay awake for hours last night. Sometimes those nights are bearable: you can wander mentally, dream and think at once. I was turning over story-fragments, shards of things that were never really finished. I was thinking in the key of Pierrots and moons and how people can disappear in themselves and I found the ending for something: a narrator letting himself into the house of a man he once loved. The living room is dark but the man - an actor, a dancer, a mime, once - sits in the armchair, a slant of dark hair across his face, which like his hands is washed with silver light. The narrrator touches a hand: there is a slow pulse, but the skin's cold enough to bring frostbite; he looks away from the eyes, which seem whitewashed, to the TV that lights up the room. Only that is unplugged. There's silver in the skin. He walks out quietly. Working back from this is hard. I often find (this makes me sound more prolific than I am) the final scenes come to me first of all.

A wuthering day here. A Waterstones gift card got unearthed the other week (along with a knee-length battered-black velvet coat I am wearing a lot now), it turned out to be still valid and I used it to get Nina Allan's first novel The Race and China Mieville's little essay London's Overthrow,  what looks like a winter night walk across the capital, musings on the failures of capitalism,  illustrated by mobile phone pictures. A snack of a book is still food for thought. Nina Allan I've shared two or three anthologies with. If you're looking for a good British writer of SF or weird I recommend either her collection The Silver Wind or the novella The Harlequin. Currently on WG Sebald's The Emigrants, which feels like a seance of the dispossessed.

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I meant to post a few days back and real life got in the way.

The election campaign has displaced Manchester in the headlines, but Friday night at least there were armed policewomen down by the Barclaycard Arena. I don't think they're patrolling down there anymore. What surprised me was how little that didn't disturb me. Maybe because it was a hot summer night and there were many people drinking and laughing by the towpath. Saturday I saw armed coppers when I was in Wolverhampton with [personal profile] cybermule (I miss you - three weeks is too damn long) and it unsettled me then. That city was quiet, though. I want to explore it more; architecturally it's much richer/variegated than Brum: Georgian and Deco buildings and a red sandstone church (Saint Peters) that hasn't been cleaned too much. That's a good thing: they did that to St Martins near the rag market and it looked bland-bare once the soot had come off.

I've set myself a goal. I want to bring out a short story collection - called ideally While The Shadows Last, bringing together old and new weird fiction - sometime in the near future. I've already queried a publisher I respect. Now I need to put together a working manuscript. I have maybe half the word count from existing work: I went out for a long and not wholly liquid lunch with JH Sunday afternoon and talked about it lots. If you read this John, thank you for the encouragement!

There is a request for a bio in the inbox, so with luck Supernatural Tales 35 will be out next month, carrying my story To Utter Dust.

Finally, hello and thank you to [personal profile] sovay , [personal profile] rydra_wong , and [personal profile] lost_spook for brightening up my day with an entertaining thread on Sapphire and Steel and David Colling's hair. You rock!


May. 23rd, 2017 12:36 pm
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All I can say about this right now is what I've said on Facebook:

We're not hopeless. We can offer a heart to those affected. A middle finger to terror and the prejudice that'll probably come in the wake of this. Stand tall.
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I was out of the city most of Monday and Tuesday when they found and detonated an unexploded WWII bomb near the Aston Expressway. I've no stories to tell; I only found out about it Tuesday night via Facebook. I was talking to a lovely couple about it in the Wellington last night. They lived too far away to be affected by the bomb, but one of their parents had remained in Brum as a child when it was being Blitzed. It rained like prison bars all of yesterday and by the time I left the shop at four we'd made just over a hundred pounds. The only good part of that day was finding the Gormenghast board game for a couple of quid. I'm not one of nature's gamers - it's like superheroes, one of those geek things I can never get my head round - but I couldn't not get this one.

Moodwise, I'm not great. I feel low, brittle:  socially skittish (I feel like I need company, then when I get it, I withdraw inside myself and feel all the worse for being a bad friend; it is all too easy to feel walled up) and have crying jags I'd rather nobody saw. I have this feeling that I open my mouth and all that comes out is vacuous, glib, fatuous bullshit. The same with writing. The words all feel like clay I can't shape. I know I'll pass out of this feeling - I've managed it before, I will again. But the sooner the better, please.

Other people's words are fine, though. The TBR pile includes Judith Thurman's Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette and John Fowles' essay The Tree. Enjoyed the picaresque of Monkey/Journey to the West but it's always a shame when tricksters turn to the light.

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