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More Grey Skies

This morning, rain falls from them. Yesterday, we had a brief respite. Although I have passed flooded fields and roads over the past few days and have dreamed of being flooded myself we are not as likely to suffer the fate of so many others round the country. Having water plunging through your home must be a terrible experience.

The extended family have not always escaped the rising waters; some years ago my sister, Finky Wink, was flooded in her basement flat in West London and my Aunt and Uncle have been flooded three times in as many months in the West country. My father lives in an old water mill. Every year they watch the water cover the garden and creep up along the path to the house, but rising sea levels or not, whoever sited the mill (mentioned in the Domesday Book) on a very slight elevation had it right and the River Stour has never once made it through the door.

My own garden is a sea of mud. Wherever mud is not plastered, I can see a persistent moss green invading. It has spread up the wooden planter, over the paving and onto the fences. Whenever the dog goes out there, he returns up to his elbows in it and traipses it all over the floor. I wish he had galoshes to give the mop a break. Given the demented way he leaps out there and comes back with mud spattered all over his face, I swear he has mud fever. He is not the only one.

These photos are an attempt at a visual antidote to the unremitting grey, rain, damp green and ubiquitous mud out of my kitchen window. They were taken on yesterday’s walk. It’s given me an idea…



Boxing Day Dog Walk

A man with a face like his wife left him

A kitesurfer heading out to the North Sea

Down there, a washed-up elephant’s tusk.

Dog-walkers that talk

near Half-built houses,

in the wind, the waves, the flood.

The regulation shouty man

The disobedience

A sickly, coughing dog.

Oystercatchers – one on a rock

Whilst ringed plovers prattle

On. The man and boy

Give caution the bird

Combing the beach

& I pick one exploded red balloon

(with a twirly silver tail)

From the thorn bush


On the way home from the library

before the winter virus strikes

but you can feel it’s in the air



I saw this gull yesterday doing battle with a McDonalds takeway paper bag. The gull was, by turns, both timid (with people) and aggressive (with the bag). It’s a juvenile black backed gull and I suppose that once it’s got its full feathers (black, grey and white – what a transformation!) it will abandon its rather endearing dance in the Co-op car park and will instead be found hanging tough with the Bully Boy Gull Gangs down the seafront, shitting on cars and stealing ice-creams from old ladies…

Or maybe it’s shitting on old ladies and stealing cars from ice-creams. The gulls down here don’t ramp, but they’ve nothing on the gulls I’ve met in Devon: they are scary.

Meet Little Penguin

I learned a lesson yesterday, when I rather flippantly dismissed New Age music as ‘annoying’. The word has come back to bite me, as these thoughtless throwaway remarks have the habit of doing… What I have found annoying about such music in the past is squawking sea birds and whale music and plinky-plonky plink-plonk. I have found it has raised my ire even more when I have felt that the imperative part of the process of listening to such tracks is to improve my life, which has been beyond somewhat rubbish on occasions. I also to seem to have linked New Age music in my mind to an ex-boyfriend with some strange habits, but that’s another story.

I listened to some music yesterday that has forced me to examine my narrow-minded prejudice about New Age music and ain’t examining a prejudice always a good thing? I have realised that there is far more to the genre than whales and pan pipes. I have realised that whilst I am old enough to have owned Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells but didn’t, I do like bells. And whilst wearing my ‘I hate New Age music’ badge I have happily listened to Jah Wobble, Enya and Keith Jarrett without giving it a second thought. And then with a hot shame I realise that one of my favourite tracks in the whole world is John Martyn’s Small Hours which is about as New Age as you can get, and was originally recorded at night on a lake with geese squawking in the background… It’s not entirely my fault I think; here’s why. I also bumped into a DJ yesterday afternoon who explained that genre is a much broader church musically than fans are aware of. Having had stand-offs in the past about what is drum and bass and/or dub, I really should know much better.

Anyway, that preamble is a rather circuitous way of reminding myself that whilst I wouldn’t dream of labelling people, I am still falling into the trap of classifying art, and in doing so could be missing out on a lot. So this is a break out of genre stereotype weekend for me. I’m reading a ghost story (horror – not my genre), cutting off my hair (the Cousin It look is my natural genre), listening to the radio as they debate the unnatural divide between arts and science whilst introducing my readers to a new, profound musical experience by local musician Little Penguin. His use of repetition and adding layers of sound upon sound seemed to me to give the piece emotional narrative and an understated and rare majesty. It’s music you can feel to and I will be getting it on my iPod as soon as it is released here. As an added bonus, the video is an engaging animation set in Southend-on-Sea.

Little Penguin is Graham Boosey of Southend on Sea, Essex. He started because he wanted to play at a new local electronica night, so he wrote some songs on his Game Boy Camera. Following experimentation through soundscapes, noise and drone, these are his subverted attempts to try and write nice songs. Graham’s favourite things are – Cheeseburgers, Pizza, New Age Music, Noise/Harsh Noise, his Wife and Dog, music releases on archaic formats and Wimpy’s (the restaurant). Contrary to what the name suggests he isn’t particularly fussed on Penguins and is a bit chubby.

Bio from Little Penguin’s record label Hottwerk

Dog as liability

I live on the edge of catastrophe with this dog. Every day it’s something, preferably involving a cat or a squirrel, or failing that, trying to fling himself out of a window in a bid for the unfettered freedom of a good pursuit. I do my best to curtail (geddit) his most heinous urges, but I take my own life in my hands when I do. Tonight, in the dark, he nearly knocked me out on a lamppost in pursuit of a cat under a car. The other week he rent my coat literally in two as he tried to go from 0-40 mph in a millisecond (again in pursuit of a cat). There will never be a day when I can let my kids hold him on the lead, and tonight was the last evening walk ever, if I can help it.

It’s not like he doesn’t get out much, here he is this morning tearing up the beach and barking at buoys.

The dog is a bastard.

Still, I believe in him more than I do in God.

On a different, but related, note, I am interested in how the very straight poles are curved when photographed in a group and how the dog manages to look very bendy indeed when he decided to run away from the buoys (as they were clearly too dangerous to be trusted).

Southend-on-Sea Architecture

I have photographed this before, but on this occasion I rather liked the sky.

I can’t decide what I think about the clocks.

Olympic ideals for parents

The Olympic torch came through our town a few weeks ago. It was a wet day; the children were allowed time off school to see this once in a lifetime event with their families. I took my two girls, who were distinctly underwhelmed; in fact they spent a lot of time moaning.
It doesn’t matter though, they saw it and the youngest took the photograph of the torch bearer as she had the best view. I haven’t parented outside the 21st century so I can’t compare the job with that of my parents, or theirs, but I suspect every generation faces its own unique challenges, as well as some in common. I believe as parents, all that you can do, is provide the opportunity for them and let them make of it what they will.

I wrote this to myself as a reminder, for when things get tough, as they always do.

Foster aspiration

Make opportunities


You cannot have all of it

Use your wisdom

Let go of something, or something will let go of you.

At least if you take the former option you have the choice

Take photographs. You cannot have too many.
Whatever you hope to remember you will most assuredly forget

Do one thing at a time – you will get less done, better

If you’re in the room, be in the room

Make time to leave the room. Alone

Listen with your heart

Don’t live just in your head

Get in your body – it’s missed you

Guilt is the most pointless construct, until you commit a crime. If you are legal, ditch the guilt

Our best is all we have to give

Sometimes we think our best is not good enough – even then it is all we have to give

Give what you can

Take as little as you need

Notice everything

Stick your tongue out in the snow

Kick off your shoes

Take a walk in the rain

Wear holes in your socks

Let the light in

But know when to draw the blinds

Get muddy

Accept imperfection, it is your friend

Look them in the eye

Gaze into your soul

Mostly, stay hungry, stay foolish (via Steve Jobs)

Discover your purpose,

Persevere infinitely

And pass the torch on

Seen & Heard: Tweeting @thebeach

Doing my annual King Canute impression. Aggregate score so far: Sea 42 – Me 0.
Unfair, as it always has the home advantage #time&tide

RT @DrDannyPenman
Cardiff University sewed kittens eyes shut in taxpayer funded experiments Like virtually all vivisection – pointless

Resisting the strong urge to tell the rest of the beach to sit down and SHUT UP.
Bet King C didn’t have to put up with sunseeking plebs.

Realise I am turning into my mother. I love her, but still, oh dear #notready

There is some eye-watering gusset action down here. Girls, check your rear view before leaving home, I beg you #southend

Lovers’ tiff. Man wearing sweater on head – she’s conducting face to face argument and tel con simultaneously. Multi-tasking emotions

She’s off phone, employing finger pointing tactic. He’s shouting, sweater still on head.
Bit early. #chill

‘It’s Southend – no-one cares. No-one is going to check you out’ #shockhorror #southend #Icare

‘Where’s the sea? Where’s the sea?’ ‘I’ll take you for a walk to find the water…’

Chelsea FC beach towel, Harrods carrier bag, deckchair hire, still arguing. Still wearing his sweater as a yashmak. Still #dre

‘You have to wait 20 minutes for your food to go down.’
Do you? Oh dear, I’ve been doing the wrong thing my whole life.

Illegal spaniel on the beach alert. Tut.

Stuck here now until the argument ends or the tide comes in, whichever is sooner.

Sweater removed from head: argument over. All smiles. Yay. Says he can’t swim.

Tide’s close enough now to see its line of scum. Doesn’t seem to put people off going in. Parents bawling at their kids behind me.

RT @paulocoelho
The danger of an adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort

Argument man wears his black woollen socks in the sea.
Wet socks, caked in sand = interesting look

Wearing socks in the sea, now that’s an adventure.

Sea 42 – Me 1
Tide turns in my favour, for now. Another adventure.

Independence and Sacrilege

Here’s a sentence I’d never planned on writing.

Today, the youngest daughter declined to come along and bounce on the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller’s inflatable, life size replica of Stonehenge, preferring instead to stay at school for Pebble Painting Club.

This is what she came out with.

We took her to the giant inflatable, entitled ‘Sacrilege’, anyway.