Ekphrastically Yours

Monday 21st December 2015.

Mum comes up to London for the day, and we do our own metropolitan version of the family get-together. First: to Somerset House Ice Rink, now a favourite symbol of Christmas in twenty-first-century London, as immortalised in the opening of Love Actually. Unfortunately today it rains like mad, and the ice rink is waterlogged. But this doesn’t stop the skaters, and they carry on gliding through the puddles.

We stick around at Somerset House to have a look at the current exhibitions. I’m delighted to see there’s a Tintin show, Tintin – Herge’s Masterpiece. Every inch of the gallery walls and windows are covered in Tintin illustrations. There are detailed scale models of scenes from the books, including a dolls’ house of Marlinspike Hall.

Then to the Courtauld next door, for Soaring Flight – Peter Lanyon’s Gliding Paintings, and Bridget Riley – Learning From Seurat. I always wonder how Ms Riley managed to create her 60s works without getting dizzy. A mere five minutes of her op-art canvases unsteadies my sense of reality. Though admittedly, that doesn’t take much.

We revisit some of the Courtauld’s permanent collection too. Paintings as old friends, world-famous masterpieces, right here by the ice rink. The Van Gogh self-portrait, Manet’s barmaid, Modigliani’s nude, Monet and Cezanne’s landscapes, Degas’s dancers.

Lunch in the top floor café of Foyle’s in Charing Cross Road, then a spot of book browsing, moving onto in Waterstone’s in Trafalgar Square. We’re impressed by their Book of the Year, The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith. It’s a beautiful children’s picture book, printed in blue cloth hardback on thick, high quality paper. Ms Bickford-Smith is a book designer by profession – her work can be seen in the Penguin English Classics range. Hers is an ornate and symmetrical  style that nods to William Morris’s woodcut designs for the Kelmscott Press, but also to Jan PieÅ„kowski’s more recent silhouettes. With The Fox and The Star Ms Bickford-Smith not only writes the original story, but illustrates, designs and typesets the finished object as well. Even the credits for the font and the paper stock have a touch of the exotic: ‘set in Agfa Wile 12pt/15pt, printed on Munken Pure Rough’.

Waterstones are also making a small point here about the current role of print books in a digital age. 2015 saw them withdraw Kindles from their shops, while the sales of print books rose for the first time since the rise of ebooks. Significantly, although The Fox and the Star has clearly been produced using the latest digital design and publishing programs, the end product is entirely physical; there is no ebook edition. In this sense, print is the ultimate upgrade of digital. The page is a screen that finally stops moving, and the viewer can finally relax.

Ms Bickford-Smith’s story is a simple fable for small children, about a young fox coping with the loss of his friend, the Star. But it lends itself to wider readings of grief and personal bereavement, particularly when one learns that the author was inspired by the loss of her mother at an early age.

Mum treats me to a copy. Later, I peruse the pages at home. My own reading of the tale is inevitably bound up with thoughts of Dad, and I get a little weepy.

By 4pm on this Shortest Day, it’s completely dark. We take a busy Clipper boat up the Thames to Greenwich, taking in the lights of the city. Then a further ride, this time on the Emirates Air Line cable car link, which spans the Thames from the O2 Dome in Greenwich to the Royal Victoria Dock in Newham. It turns out to be easy to just turn up and get a whole car to yourself. No queues; in fact, barely anyone on the thing at all. The moment when the car first ascends from the terminus and soars high above the water is the most heartstopping one. It swings a little in the wind, which is unnerving, but only a little.

We take the DLR and tube to Liverpool Street, where I see Mum off on the train to Suffolk.

* * *

Thursday 24th December 2015.

Adventures in youth slang. In a branch of Pret today, a young man at the table next to me says his companion, ‘I find that so jokes‘. As in funny. I knew about this usage from the internet, but thought it was confined to the enclaves of cyberspace. This is the first time I’ve heard it said aloud. But it’s still yet to appear on Gardener’s Question Time, I think.

I attempt to see a film in the evening with Shanthi S, but we’re thwarted by her news website employers, who force her to work late. She has to work on Christmas Day as well, via her computer at home. The news must not rest.

All the cinemas in London seem to shut down completely on Xmas Eve after 6pm, but we have a pleasant time with cocktails and food at the Dean Street Townhouse in Soho (see previous entry).

Shanthi reminds me how in New York it’s common for people to go to the cinema on Christmas Day, often combining it with Chinese food. There’s nothing like that in London. Many pubs, restaurants and convenience stores are open, but certainly no cinemas. The transport system still shuts down completely on December 25th – the only day in the year when it does. Even in 2015, London is essentially a Christian city.

* * *

Friday 25th December 2015.

Christmas Day, spent in Highgate. Rainy, windy, cold and overcast. I phone Mum for a chat in the morning, then brave the rain to walk up to Waterlow Park, for my traditional feeding of the ducks.

The rest of the day is spent in my room, hacking away at the essay, while swigging from a large bottle of Baileys. My Christmas lunch is a microwaved carton of ‘White Christmas’ soup from the New Covent Garden Soup Co. Plus Quorn cocktail sausages. And lashings of back pain (currently seeing a GP, trying treatments).

Still, I’m grateful not to be one of the thousands in Northern England affected by devastating floods. I think about how we’re now getting close to 2019, the year that Blade Runner is meant to be set in. A film in which the future means constant heavy rain.

* * *

Saturday 26th December 2015.

I upload a diary entry that was meant to be a few words, apologising for not writing a diary entry. It ends up ballooning into 1500 words.

Evening: to the Curzon Soho, a cinema that proudly advertises itself in its window posters as a ‘Force Free Zone’. Its three screens are showing a diverse programme of films, none of which are the new Star Wars. There’s Carol, Grandma, the Peggy Guggenheim documentary, The Lobster (still), and Ice and the Sky. I plump for Grandma, a low-key indie road movie in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine and The Daytrippers.

Grandma stars Lily Tomlin as a grumpy lesbian poet (in her first leading role since 1988’s Big Business with Bette Midler!). She drives her pregnant granddaughter around various locations in order to raise the money for an abortion. It’s a simple conceit, but full of wit, poignancy and thoughtful characterisation; with jokes that rely on the audience knowing who Simone De Beauvoir is.

* * *

Monday 28th December 2015.

Evening: To Vout-O-Reenee’s for Atalanta Kernick’s birthday drinks. Lots of queer, dapper ladies, and women from the 90s London music scene. I chat to the writer Ngaire-Ruth, Debbie Smith (AK’s partner), Harris (one of the Drakes, a performance group of besuited butch women), and also to Ms Shir from Israel (which she refers to as ‘the land of blood and honey’). Plus Alex, the (straight male) drummer from the band Nightnurse. He’s now in Department S, of ‘Is Vic There’ fame. I discover that he also pops up in Shaun of the Dead, as a zombie on a daytime TV talk show. Indulge myself with the bar’s ‘Dunkin Donut’ cocktail: milk, cacao, Kahlua.

* * *

Thursday 31st December 2015.

New Year’s Eve. I stay in by myself. Again, by choice. Again, to work on the essay. I discover the true sound of NYE in residential city streets: the constant revving of pizza delivery mopeds.

In the essay, I suddenly find myself using the word ‘ekphrastically’. At which point it’s midnight, so I take a break, open the Prosecco, and watch the fireworks at the London Eye, via the internet. Far better than being surrounded by drunken people who don’t know what they’re doing. Here’s to choice, difference, and 2016.

* * *

Sunday 3rd January 2016.

I finish the essay – with a fifth draft – and deliver it online. Celebrate by watching the new Sherlock film, the Victorian one, which is superb. Also enjoy Charlie Brooker’s 2015 Wipe, his satirical review of the year. It ends on a pessimistic note, but I take comfort from the knowledge that Mr Brooker’s style of ‘loner grumpiness’ is now a necessary fabrication. It’s quite funny that he has to keep up the image of the angry, lonely outsider shouting at the TV from his sofa, when these days he is married and has children, and indeed a successful TV career. I worry, though, about my own grumpiness. I’m heading into a new year, still without any sense of a ‘career’, still very much feeling like a outsider. And yet Ms Shanthi said to me this week, when I was apparently acting in a bar like I owned the place, ‘You’re more like Hugh Grant than you think!’

* * *

Tuesday 4th January 2016.

To the ICA cinema to see Joy, the new David O. Russell film, starring Jennifer Lawrence. As was the case with Mr Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, it also has Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, and the same mix of quirky plot details with straightforward realism. The quirky plot in this instance being the tale of a young woman who invents a self-rinsing mop. There’s a little of Frank Capra’s ‘American inspiration’ style in this particular mix, though, and thanks to Ms Lawrence being so utterly likeable, it all works. Indeed, I come out of the cinema with a real sense of warmth. It’s also a nice companion to Carol, being another Christmas tale of a woman finding out who she really is.

* * *

Thursday 7th January 2016.

First class of the MA’s spring term. I’m now on a module that’s specifically about contemporary US fiction. This week we study Paradise (1997) by Toni Morrison. It uses elements of mystery and magical realism, much like Beloved, but with a much larger cast of characters. As a result, the reader has to do a fair amount of work just to work out what’s going on – the narrative can switch perspectives and even historical eras, halfway through a sentence.

* * *

Friday 8th January 2016.

I finish reading Diana Athill’s Alive Alive Oh! Some new words: she calls Highgate ‘a bosky place’ (leafy, wooded). As a child she wore ‘jemimas’ – overshoes of waterproofed felt. ‘Galoshes were considered sissy, whereas jemimas, although they looked much more old-womanish, were perfectly acceptable on manly feet’.

Also, she expresses the unexpected luxury of having to use a wheelchair, especially when visiting art exhibitions. ‘The crowd falls away on either side like the Red Sea, and there you are, lounging in front of the painting of your choice in perfect comfort’.

On life advice at 98: ‘Avoid romanticism and abhor possessiveness’. And on her innate sense of not wanting to be a mother: ‘I remember thinking when looking at a small baby, ‘I’d much rather pick up a puppy.”

* * *

I look back over the previous year’s diaries. I think I saw more films than ever – it must be close to a hundred. In which case, here’s some Favourite Things of 2015. I recommend them all.


  1. Appropriate Behaviour
  2. Birdman
  3. Carol
  4. The Falling
  5. Inside Out
  6. The Lady In The Van
  7. London Road
  8. Mistress America
  9. White Bird In A Blizzard
  10. The Lobster


  1. Best of Enemies (Gore Vidal)
  2. Do I Sound Gay? (campness as identity)
  3. Beyond Clueless (US high school films)
  4. My Secret World (Sarah Records)
  5. Regarding Susan Sontag


  1. St Aubyn – Lost For Words
  2. DeLillo – White Noise
  3. Carter – Passion of New Eve
  4. Abrams & Dorst – S
  5. Hamid – Reluctant Fundamentalist

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Xmas Week Diary and Christmas Message 2013

Friday 20th December 2013. I am pleased to receive about two dozen cards this year, made all the more special by the high cost of postage and the dominance of the internet. Post from abroad is especially meaningful: I’m sent a beautiful pop-up one from Eileen C in New York and a pictorial Christmas aerogramme from Danika H in Australia.

Although people rarely send cards and letters today, two Christmas books this year on the subject have proved to be very popular. There’s Shaun Usher’s anthology Letters of Note and Simon Garfield’s historical account, To The Letter. The Usher book is based on his website, where the very technology that killed off the letter – the internet – has turned out to be perfect for celebrating it. I feel all the more grateful for receiving an actual letter at Christmas, from Danika, and I’ll make sure I reply in kind.

Another sign of the times this week: the gay section in Time Out magazine has been axed. It’s assumed that, like cinema listings, there’s no longer any need to turn to a paper magazine to find out about events: Facebook events pages and online listings have become the default. Gay issues, meanwhile, are more mainstream than ever, with Conservative politicians supporting campaigns for gay marriage, and campaigns against homophobia around the world (such as in Russia and Uganda) given decent coverage by the media. This week has also seen Alan Turing finally pardoned for the crime of having consensual sex with another man. His mistake was to have it in the 1950s. Actually, as my dad once told me, it was pretty much frowned on to have sex in the 1950s if you were heterosexual, too.

But the question of promoting gay culture separately in terms of identity and role models is an ongoing one. As it is, London still has its annual LGBT film festival (at the BFI) and its own gay bookshop (Gay’s The Word in Marchmont Street – hitting 35 years old next January). Coming out as gay is still a big issue – Tom Daley making the headlines of late. So Time Out’s decision does seem premature. But then, like all paper listings magazines, it’s been struggling full stop.

* * *

Saturday 21st December 2013. To Somerset House with Ella Lucas, to see the exhibition on the late British fashion editor, collector, string-puller, muse and Lady Gaga lookalike, Isabella Blow. Ingeniously, the exhibits that can’t go on mannequins, such as letters and faxes, are in white display cases which sit surreally on mannequin legs – with shoes from Ms Blow’s collection on the cases’ feet. One letter, on Harpers notepaper, is from Hamish Bowles, who is also one of the other dandies in the I Am Dandy book. He writes to Ms Blow, ‘Long for your next appearance – stepping out of a reverie by Ronald Firbank…’

Much of the exhibition is of Philip Treacy’s exotic hat and mask creations, Ms Blow being his biggest champion. One mask has a grid of jewelled Swarovski crystal nails in a black silk net, rather reminding me of the Pinhead monster in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. I check the caption, and it turns out to be a direct homage: ‘Hellraiser mask with nail detailing‘. Any exhibition which references Ronald Firbank and Hellraiser is fine by me.

A word learned: ‘chopine’. A historical type of women’s platform shoe, popular in the 15th to 17th centuries. Modern versions of which are in the Blow collection. More like a platform clog, really.

One of the information panels on Ms Blow’s history begins with the phrase ‘Forced to work for a living…’

* * *

Sunday 22nd December 2013. I visit the Museum of London, and am pleased to see that its shop stocks A London Year, the diary anthology which includes me alongside Pepys and co. It’s the closest I’ve come yet to being a museum piece.

On the raised pedestrian walkway around the corner, I take a look at the ruins of the original London Wall, where the layers of medieval brickwork can be seen on top of the Roman foundations. There’s an information panel about the ruins, provided by the museum. It’s dated 1980 and has been laminated against the elements, though 33 years later the elements have won, and much of the text is now faded and illegible. The panel about the ruins is itself a ruin.

In the evening I turn a corner in Clerkenwell Green and suddenly see the Shard and St Paul’s from a distance, both lit up. From this angle they appear as if standing right next to each other, though the Thames and several districts separate them geographically. Tonight the former looks like a Christmas tree, and the latter like a bauble. I stare up from the silent street at them, thinking how London always was this constant shrug of old with new, just like the two parts to the Wall and the ruined panel. Inside the Crown Tavern, more shrugging: Wizzard’s eternal Christmas song on the pub stereo, while the first word I overhear as I enter is someone saying  ‘Facebook’.

* * *

Monday 23rd December 2013.

The London Library’s last day before closing for Christmas, and the last day of its late night hours, closing at 9pm. It transpires that not enough members use the library quite that late, so in 2014 ‘late closing’ will mean 8pm instead. I sit in the historic Reading Room from 8.30pm till the end, which as expected means I am the only one there. Just me, all the books and journals, the famous soporific armchairs, the fireplace, and the Christmas tree. Utter, serene peace. I soak it in.

As soon as I leave, though: chaos. Heavy wind and rain has hit Britain, causing transport shut downs and power cuts at the worst possible time of year. Although the effect on London is relatively minor, my umbrella is a wreck before I make it out of St James’s Square. At Piccadilly Circus, where I get the tube, the clear plastic bubble over Eros has burst, scattering polystyrene chips of fake snow all over the road. Like some Biblical retribution against worshipping false gods, this idealised image of Christmas weather – pretty fake snow in a bubble – has been eclipsed by real Christmas weather – ugly, uncontained wind and rain.

* * *

Tuesday 24th December 2013.

To the Hackney Picturehouse to see a 1940s Christmas-themed film I’d not seen before, The Bishop’s Wife, in which Cary Grant plays an angel helping a troubled New York priest, played by David Niven. Despite his otherworldly role, Cary Grant is just dressed as Cary Grant, with the usual immaculate dark suit. One character is an eccentric aged scholar,  an atheist who nevertheless loves the traditions of Christmas. On discovering Cary G’s celestial identity, he remarks ‘Oh, that’s annoying.’ I think that’s how I’d feel.

Even though the story centres on David Niven’s bishop, the film’s parting message about Jesus feels unusual, even jarring. Yet I remember how it works fine in The Holly and The Ivy, a British film from the early 50s, also about priests at Christmas. I think the fact that Niven’s daughter is played by ‘Zuzu’ from It’s A Wonderful Life reminds me why: American films are happy to tell Christmas stories about angels, but they usually leave out Christ himself.

It’s still an issue today. I read a piece in the Guardian this week where an American writer remarks how the British are perfectly happy to say ‘Merry Christmas’ to each other, as opposed to ‘Happy Holidays’, regardless of religion – or lack of it – of those present. It’s just tradition. But among the cards from British people I get, some are indeed saying ‘Happy Holidays’, so perhaps that’s changing.

The first time I saw the word ‘holidays’ used to mean Christmas was in a TV advert. The product was that great ambassador of the American way, Coca-Cola. That may be another reason why ‘Happy Holidays’ has yet to catch on: for some (and I include myself), it feels too American.

* * *

Wednesday 25th December 2013. I spend Christmas by myself in Highgate, once again enjoying the palpable and rare peace in the city. The changed background hum of low traffic without buses. Morning spent hungover from mixing prosecco and Baileys the night before. I chat to Mum at length on the phone.

At 1pm, I meet up with Silke R once again for my own tradition of feeding the ducks in Waterlow Park. Silke is currently staying in the flat attached to Archway Video, the film rental library on Archway Road where we both once worked. An independent family business since the 1980s, the shop stocked a huge range of films, first on VHS, then DVD, and eventually, Blu-Ray. The customers included Daniel Craig, Maureen Lipman, Ray Davies of the Kinks and Brett Anderson of Suede. This year, the shop is an empty shell, closed for good since the summer. Silke now works for Odeon, an irony given that video shops were first thought to be bringing about the death of cinema. It wasn’t cinema that killed video shops, though, but online services like Lovefilm, Netflix, and of course Amazon.

In Muswell Hill a few months ago I bumped into one of the shop’s old customers. ‘I do miss that shop,’ he said fondly. ‘Though of course I hadn’t been in for years.’ He didn’t seem to notice how one statement was related to the other.

Thursday 26th December 2013.

With the lack of traffic on Boxing Day, combined with the sense of enforced family gatherings reaching the point of strained boredom, some local teenagers play football in the street outside. I first worry about them breaking any windows, but then I realise that young people playing ball games in the road is very old indeed. All the museum photos say so.

I walk around St Pancras in the afternoon. Most of the people I see fall into two categories. There’s aimlessly wandering tourists, who seem baffled that everything is shut for a second day. A handful of them climb on the gates of the British Library to take photos of the empty piazza. The other category is football fans, because Boxing Day means sport. People in Chelsea scarves are looking particularly pleased with themselves.

Friday 27th December 2013.



This year’s photograph of me with a London tree is of course a ‘selfie’, one of 2013’s Words of the Year. With thanks to the London Review Bookshop for letting me take it on their premises on Christmas Eve.

The bookshop tree represents not just my current life as a student of literature, but my increasing concern about the effect of digital culture on independence, in every sense. On a blunt commercial level, the online tax-dodging colossus that is Amazon is obviously threatening the future of independent, non-corporate shops like the LRB. Bookshops, like cinemas and libraries, are pleasant places for staff to work in and for customers to go and immerse themselves in culture, at their own pace, offline and away from the ubiquity of the computer screen. No advertising sidebars tearing your concentration to shreds. One book I bought at the LRB this year was The Circle by Dave Eggers, which paints a near-future world where Amazon and Google and social media have reduced people’s lives to a banal flatness of public algorithms and vanished privacy.

This theme also connects neatly with Channel 4’s Alternative Christmas Message by Edward Snowden, the whistleblowing fugitive of the USA security services. Mr Snowden cited another novel about a world without privacy, 1984, and said some rather powerful things:

‘A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all. They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves, an unrecorded, unanalysed thought… And that’s a problem, because privacy matters. Privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.’

The Queen’s own Christmas message also touched on the need for personal time alone, though she linked it more with prayer and meditation.  Certainly a child born today in the case of baby Prince George has even less privacy than most children, but the point stands. What grabbed my attention with the Queen’s message was that she also mentioned ‘even keeping a diary’ as an example of creating a space for private reflection. Which is where I come in.

This year saw my online diary’s first emergence in book form, in the form of extracts in the anthology A London Year. Like the books about letters, it’s a celebration of individual minds reflecting in privacy. Their words are only later published when the appropriate permissions have been sought, and when an editor has done their own reflecting on what part of private writing might, as Shuan Usher puts it, be ‘deserving of a wider audience’. An amount of consideration and reflection has been applied, in other words. Although my own diary is published online first, it actually begins life as a series of far more personal notes made in my own paper notebooks. And even when published online, I try to evoke the more private nature of the printed page by the omission of one key element: no comments box.

A blog with no comments is as close to the reflective, personal and locked-off experience of the printed page as it can get. If you write online, I highly recommend it. Let comments belong on social media. Writing and reading are after all anti-social activities, and need to be. Humans are social creatures, but socialising needs to be kept apart from the production and consumption of writing. The more people can disconnect by way of balance, the better.

(I’ve now realised that Mr Usher also omits a comments box from his Letters of Note website too.)

It’s rather impractical to call for a boycott of Amazon, Google and social media now, and I wouldn’t want to. I use those things all the time myself. But my wish for 2014 is to try to resist the technology that wants us to only live through an endless scrolling of screens, that only what matters is to join the shallow noise, the unconsidered chatter, the indiscretion, the unkind photos passed around at the expense of others and the Fear of Missing Out. I wish to balance these activities with more appreciation of three beautiful ‘I’s: individualism, independence and immersion.

And I wish you a very happy what’s-left-of-Christmas, and a splendid New Year.

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Christmas Photos

Here’s this year’s DE Christmas card image. Photo taken in April 2008 by Phoebe Allen. Digital snow added in December by Daniel Clift.


Here’s this year’s DE In Front Of A Christmas Tree In London shot, by Heather Malone. Taken outside the Natural History Museum, Christmas Eve 2008, at about 10pm.


And here’s one I took today, while mooching along Parkland Walk to get to a Christmas Dinner in Crouch End. It’s the scary hidden sculpture of a spriggan (an unkind creature from Cornish folklore), by the artist Marilyn Collins. Seems even more magical (or more scary) on Christmas Day:

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Goodbyes of the 13th

Further to the last entry, I suppose it’s something of an achievement to be singled out for having funny hair in Camden Town. That perennially youthful hub of North London where the current fashion is for young men to wear their hair in a kind of spilt paint-pot effect. It’s as if their hair has not so much been styled as thrown onto their heads from a great height.

I do like the trend for young men wearing scarves at all times, though. Often indoors. A couple of days ago I saw a fashionable looking boy on the Archway Road with his Ugg-ed up girlfriend. Not just a tangle of scarves and skinny jeans, but sunglasses on his head too. In mid December.

It’s never a bad thing for young men to have to feminize themselves to fit in. Though I’m obviously biased. Make-up is often a leap too far, though. One feels sorry for the ‘brickies in drag’ of the 70s glam rock era, or the 60s hippies who really wanted to be lads, or those backing musicians in 80s New Romantics bands who were not at one with their eyeshadow. Scarves are more do-able.

The fashion also favours the boyish side of androgyny (and again, I’m biased). A scarf hides an Adam’s Apple, or corrects Nature’s omission of one.


Where was I? (All over the place, today, Mr E. Still, carry on.)

Yes, the last Fosca gig at Islington. It was fine, no one died (Oh do stop that!). Maybe not as many people as one might hope. Alex S says the heavy rain of the 13th definitely made some people stay at home. He quotes Frank Skinner:

‘You can spend your life trying to be popular, but at the end of the day, the size of the crowd at your funeral will be largely dictated by the weather.’

It’s so true. And it was a funeral, after all. Some kind comments afterwards: great sound, great performance, shame we’re splitting up. That it would be even more of a shame if I never took to the stage again. Well, we’ll see.

Matt Haynes says our one-off line-up and going out with a one-off vinyl single in 2008 reminded him of the equally perverse last Field Mice gig in 1991 or so. There, the band aired brand new songs which hadn’t been released then and never were released afterwards (and remain unreleased even now, I think…). Here’s to perversity.

I’m just glad we managed one last London gig at all. That’ll do, Fosca, that’ll do.

I stand around afterwards with a box of the new single and last album, in case anyone wants to buy them. And as it happens, they do. To my absolute surprise I attract a small queue. I sell all the copies I’ve brought. Including, by accident, my own copies. Oops. And I sign some, too. I’m getting good at signing things in noisy places (or if I’m feeling a bit deaf), asking people to quickly write their name on a bit of scrap paper nearby, then confidently spelling their name correctly on their book or record.

Boy H had to go back to the US (and snow) the same evening. Pretty much for good. What with him and Fosca I had to deal with two big goodbyes in one night. I plumped for my usual tactic. I got a bit drunk.

So: single again. Alone, but not lonely. All kinds of invites from friends who are also spending the festive break in London – dinner there, drinks here, a concert of carols if I fancy it. Too lucky to grumble.

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