Iraqi’s pyramid conceals a challenge

Now, *that* was a good weekend.

Part one was the Bristol Beer Festival: notable for large numbers of inevitably rotund beardies and almost no women, except on our table, which was spectacularly even on the gender lines. Much haziness of consciousness, many things called ‘Old Morocco’ (my favourite) and the like, including a *bright green* beer called ‘A Sign of Spring’ – what ho, , , and many splendid others for being there too. Was disappointed that Russian Imperial Stoat had sold out – only to discover in Part Two today that it’s brewed a coupla miles form where I live and is in my favourite local pub. Mmm, beer – and jolly home-made pizza fun at home with six of us afterwards.

Part two failed to follow King Alfred (he was busy cooking), but did involve a pleasant walk, albeit to a shut pub, hence the now traditional ensuing voyage to the home of the Stoat. Walk notable for two incidents in particular:

1. (The Scene: A parked car along a narrow lane contains about 5 Jack Russells barking their heads off.)
HATMANDU: ‘Barky barky barky bark bark.’
A VOICE: ‘Barky barky bark.’

The voice turned out to belong to a middle aged woman rootling around in a hedgerow, who said this with her back still turned to us. At last: an intelligent conversation with a local.

2. We were sunning our four happy, idling selves by the river, playing (1,3)* and generally lazing about in the remarkable warmth, when something off floated towards us. It gradually appeared to be a plank of wood. Fair enough: we’d just been playing pooh sticks, so maybe a competitive villager had decided to pull rank. But no: said plank (not the villager) was inscribed with things such as: ‘SELF PITY’, ‘DOUBT’, ‘FEAR’, ‘LACK OF CONFIDENCE’ and the like – clearly someone has been reading a self-help cognitive therapy book and has let their worries float down the river. While we watched, a brief hailstorm came down, then stopped as soon as we moved on. The plank got stuck in some weeds, so I freed it back into the main current – I hope it works, dammit.

But I do have really bad asthma at the moment, both of my parents are ill, and This Is Tiresome.

Tra la.

*(1,3) – this (copyright ME) is a version of I Spy where you have to come up with a spur-of-the-moment cryptic crossword clue for something in your purview. For example: ‘French bank right between two banks’ for ‘river’ – yes, yes, they don’t have to be very good.

Sinclair’s Ring cycle

At last the chance to rhapsodise about Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital. I love some of his earlier books (although the one novel I read was largely incomprehensible to me at the time), but this one works so much better (not that I’ve quite finished yet). It’s Last of the Summer Wine scripted by Edgar Allan Poe; it’s the Dark Side of Fatty Ackroyd.

(I haven’t done any of this kind of lunatic perambulation for a while now – alas my fellow fugueurs now live elsewhere or have babies – and I damn well miss it.)

Only 10 pages left to go now – he’s certainly rushing the last bit. Which is just as well, because most of it is about nasty Essex people chopping each other up and distributing the bits.

But the best bit for me, the most elegiac of all, was in the grounds of the erstwhile Joyce Green Hospital near Dartford, and with the old codgers wandering around the mud and salt flats. What made it particularly spectacular was that I read it in the great hall of Imperial College while H and the rest of the choir sang Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius at me (and several hundred others) – perfect combination. Great concert, and something of an elegy for H, too, as it was the last one she’ll do for that particular kwa.

I think there’s a lot more subtlety in Sinclair’s tone in this book: he’s still very good at invective, but it’s always tempered with a sort of metallic nostalgia. And although he hardly rhapsodises about the grey hinterlands that are being lost to developers, the whole thing is nevertheless pervaded with this sense of loss, and it’s quietly moving to read of all these brutal sanitoria being transmuted into clocktowered Crest estates and all the rest of it. Corking stuff.