The Easter weekend saw the family gathered to hunt for prosecco and chocolate. A considerable bout of rain gracefully stopped in time to allow the search to take place in the damp garden, although the event somehow lacked its original charm from when small squealing children were running around the garden in breathless anticipation. We had separate visits from our daughters’ photogenic dogs, Maisie and Jaxon, still keen on running themselves dog-tired. Some mitigation. The vengeful rain returned on the following day.
On recent walks I have sauntered down new paths which previously I only made a mental note of as I passed by. In nearby Westmeston, the ancient epicentre of many fascinating trails, after threading through the hamlet and outlying fields on a meandering country track, I took a dog-eared Penguin paperback of Suetonius’s Twelve Caesars from a red telephone box library before walking around the 900-year old church of St Martin’s in the dead centre of the settlement, namely the churchyard. The church has an unusual cup-shaped Norman font made of chalk clunch and an oak Jacobean pulpit. I realised that the text in my hand was written more than a thousand years before the church was first established. Words, of course, last longer than buildings. Even the red phone box is now an architectural antiquity, mystifying some. In the ancient woods of Parsons Withe, near the vets in Burgess Hill, a new planning application has been received for multiple large houses after the previous one was rejected two years ago. It would be devastating to lose these woods. Max and Bonnie like them too.
I went to Brighton early one morning to wait in our small flat for the British Gas electrical engineer, a date that had been postponed once before due to an unfortunate no-show a month ago. I nearly missed them again when the doorbell failed to work and the engineer put a card through the door and left. He had tried to ring the bell and had apparently hammered on the door, but I managed to persuade him to come back after delivering a luxuriant sob-story to the manager on the service desk less than an hour later. The engineer fixed the meter and in doing so uncovered extraordinary evidence that a separate cable had been run into our meter, meaning that the owner or managing agent had been using our electricity for the common parts of the building (and whatever else) for several years. The managing agent casually admitted that the cable was fixed before I bought the flat and that because I had bought it then “as is”, I must take it on the chin. Is that a legally valid defence? The final bill for the last three years is apparently ‘unfeasibly’ high and provided the reason for the engineer’s visit. In case I got fed up with all this, I have had two back teeth removed by the local dentist. It was quick and painful but on the next day I was fine and drank a stiff gin and tonic using the left side of my mouth. I am now back to full-mouth drinks.
I was at two great concerts this month with Jessie and Ella. The Jayhawks (at the Empire, Shepherds Bush) were my favourite band from the late 90s onwards, and they still inspired that curious mixture of longing, joy, regret, and a grateful recognition of the sheer tunefulness of their best music, much of which they played. Gary Louris, the lead singer and songwriter, was upbeat, dry-humoured, and casual, inquiring innocently about English football teams and asking for ideas on where to buy a house in England. The set was an unashamed best-hits parade. Notably, Louris played the wonderful wistful melody, ‘Listen Joe’, written for the Golden Smog as an acoustic solo encore.
Ryan Adams (at the London Palladium), on a dark stage part-illuminated by cosy lamps and covered with reassuring rugs, played many of his crowd-pleasers and several covers. However, he removed the rhythm from the upbeat tunes, creating a brooding penumbra of agonised but mournful music. It was impossible to equate his lugubrious version of the Clash’s clashing ‘London’s Burning’ with mosh-pit pogoing, but my highlight was ‘Sixteen days’, the first of his songs that I ever listened to and had never before heard live. His banter was often awkward and his deadpan put-downs of people yelling out songs they wanted seemed unnecessary even if understandable. He complained about and cursed a doctor who had not shown up before the show to give him a cortisone injection and he apologised for a bad cold even as he entered swathed in pullovers. Also subject to epileptic seizures, he had asked for people using flash photography or phone lights to be ejected. Dozens were. But for three hours he gave us much of his best and most intense music stripped bare. I enjoyed the concert but I was a bit worried about Ryan.
I spent an excellent evening in London with a friend first met in the 1960s. Tom and I were at the Dragon School together and firm friends for just five years before meeting again for an evening last year. I came for drinks but stayed for dinner as it seemed difficult to leave mid-catch-up. I much enjoyed an evening of partial remembrance, light banter, impromptu food, good wine, and mutual gentle probing of the layers that have settled upon us since 1970. We each have three daughters. Capisce? I also went with Jessie and Jurrat to inspect the accommodation proposed for their wedding in July and returned via the Artelium vineyard with them for a cheeky Pinot. Alli and I went for a second time to look around the house we agreed to buy in Horsted Keynes (pronounced as in canes rather than keens), and whose sale is bumping slowly around the bagatelle networks of local surveyors, advisers, agents, and stolid solicitors. We measured key spaces in the house in the slight hope that some of our long-stored furniture from France might fit, and walked around the village’s ancient epicentre before going to the Crown Inn for a light lunch. The customers were mostly intrepid walkers of the third age. I must say it’s amazing how young old people look these days