Just as long as it has a non-slip handle.

Back into Walker. Either this job will be finished soon, or I’m going to snap and run screaming around the building. I’ll probably finish the job: I can’t be bothered with the expense of buying the axe, although as it would be for just the one killing spree I probably wouldn’t need a very expensive one. Just as long as it has a non-slip handle.

(Please note, the above is ironic. Think of it as a Hallowe’n joke, albeit more John Carpenter than Great Pumpkin. Can’t be too careful these days. Thank you for your attention.)

At home the evening is spent bubbling gently and failing to achieve anything. My mother phones up asking for a compilation of virtuoso guitarists (actually, yes, I think that’s quite an unusual request too) and I spend some time researching same. Not much of a day, really, but what do you expect from a Thursday?

rolling up my left trouser leg Freemason – stylee

Today I have to go back into Walker’s during the day, Photoshopping and barking gruffly at people. When people ask me what’s supposed to be wrong with me I’ve got into the habit of rolling up my left trouser leg Freemason-stylee and showing them the still red and swollen leg and pointing out the blisters on the back of my calf. Actions speak louder… It makes a nice change to have an ailment that one can actually show people, although the problem isn’t so much the leg as the immune system’s reaction to it.

In the evening there’s a sextet rehearsal at the Three Stags. We’ll be playing downstairs in the bar next Thursday (the 7th of November). I must alert people to the opportunity they’ll have to come and point and laugh at me (possibly executing my party trick of jabbing at the top end of the fretboard looking for possible notes).

I’m still not fit, but I struggle there with the gear, up the stairs, through the rehearsal, down the stairs and home again, so I suppose I can chalk that up under “things achieved”.

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t have to.

Head still buzzing, still feeling vague, I spend some of the day typefacing, some of it slaving under the Yoke of the Evil Emperor Tim, some of it guitaring but most of it searching out local history on the internet.

I’m trying out search engines that aren’t Google, essentially, including Vivisimo and Teoma, putting in local buzzwords and coming up with all sorts of history.

Firstly, I find Greenwood’s Map of London 1827, The MOTCO image database, including several maps from 1746 to 1862; John Snow’s Epedemiological Map of London 1859; Underground History – Disused Stations on London’s Underground and London’s Abandoned Tube Stations; The Wrong Side of the River: London’s disreputable South Bank in the sixteenth and seventeenth century; Collage: An image database containing 20,000 works from the Guildhall Library and Guildhall Art Gallery London. On this last I think that I find a picture of my living room window from 1813, but then on reassessment it might be a completely different window from round the corner.

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t have to. I wasn’t up to too much work, because I still can’t concentrate. However just drifting around looking at things that are just interesting is perfectly possible.

I’m not like this all the time except maybe I am

However much I might want to, it’s less and less viable for me to spend my time sleeping. Although it doesn’t look any better (or indeed any different) from the other day, the leg is no longer screaming quite so loudly when I poke it over the side of the bed.

So in the morning I successfully dither and sleep and in the afternoon I go up to Tufnell Park to pick up a brief for a CD cover. It makes a change to get out of the house. There’s little pain in the leg, the only problem being that I’m a little light-headed and incoherent. I have to explain that I’ve been ill and that I’m not like this all the time except maybe I am.

I had spoken to Romany about getting a ringer for the jam tonight, but having received no message I go along anyway, where I discover there is a ringer and there was a message, so I trundle home again with the stuff.

I stumble across this 1827 map of London: fascinating, if only because it shows that the building I live in was there in 1827.

“differently ill”

Although I ought to be getting better, I do almost nothing today. I realise that I really might not be up to the gig when I look at the clock on the telephone and don’t have enough energy to reset it (the clocks went forward … or back … anyway it’s Officially Autumn). If I can’t get it together to press a few buttons, then whither The Man From Delmonte? Not to mention all those standards I was supposed to play (long story and it won’t happen now, so…)

There was, apparantly, a gale this morning. Great piles of leaves litter the pavement, which must make it difficult for the cyclists. A couple of trees and a telephone junction box blown down down the road, and a whole branch came down on the Blackwells’ sign, shattering it.

But is there some kind of linguistic distinction between “better” (which I don’t think I am) and merely “differently ill” (which I do)?

now with added suppuration

As yesterday, really. Without an outing but now with added suppuration. Mmm. I’m sure you’re very curious about that now. So a lot of the day is spent asleep, and the rest is spent… as good as asleep.

I can leave fingermarks in my shin, that sort of stay there for a while, as in fresh dough. Knew you’d like that.

Despite my pessimistic nature, I’m only beginning to accept my illness on a sort of rolling basis – today I’m ill, but tomorrow I’ll be miraculously better. I’m just beginning to suspect that this is not the case and that tomorrow not only will I still be ill, but that I’ll be too ill to do the Jeays gig.

Either the leg is improving, though, or I’m learning to deal with it swiftly, chucking my self down the ladder before the calf muscles have a chance to complain.

the Machine That Goes Ping

Another day spent largely asleep, with the radio on. Getting out of bed involves what is swiftly becoming a ritual of spasms and stifled screaming, and not in a nice way. The leg doesn’t like being shifted to another position and complains lengthily and loudly. And they’re playing Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony a lot on the radio.

If that seems a trifle disjointed, well, that’s what it was like.

I’ve bought tickets to a thing at the Barbican so (given that I can’t get my money back) I’m going to suffer and go anyway. Traditional British stoicism in the face of potential financial loss, which has also governed my approach to guitar craft over the last few days – two half-hour sessions of unfocused just-sitting-there, one clutching a guitar, one not. But I did it.

The thing in question is a performance to accompany Ian Sinclair’s book London Orbital. Laura has come down from Suffolk and thought it might be a nice thing to do. Besides, it has Ken Campbell in it.

The effect of the Third World War on the London bourgoisie was devastating. There was more than enough shelter space, but when the bombs began to drop, half of them were still in the bar and another twenty-five percent were still looking for a good parking space…

Not in the most generous of moods. I shan’t discuss it chronologically, but rather…

Ian Sinclair was consistently entertaining and (if I may use such a word) urbane. His writing is constantly on the go, allusive, diversionary, stretching for an extra reference or metaphor or observation. Consequently it can be a bit tiring to read, but hearing it read changes that, and I realise how witty it often is, how portentous it isn’t quite. Interesting to compare with Kevin Jackson’s piece, which is written in standard-issue funny-journalese and consequently heavy-handed and false. Where with someone like Sinclair there is a sense of someone immersing themselves in a story, with a journalist there is always the notion that they are spinning a story out of their experiences. I’ll think about that, but it suggests to me that Gonzo works.

Sinclair even manages to work in a reference to David Rodinsky, which is quite impressive in a way.

Ken was fab, but then he always is. He talked about ferrets and ventriloquism and the Gastromancer of Peckham for five minutes. What a show Sinclair and Campbell could produce.

Bill Griffiths read a poem and played two pieces by Bartok on the Grand Piano. However the piano was dreadfully miked/EQed. I imagine they don’t get much call for Grand Pianos in the Barbican hall.

J.G. Ballard didn’t show up, being ill. Which is a shame. Sinclair and Chris Petit performed his bit between them, using a cardboard cutout which Sinclair claimed showed the moment Ballard contracted his debilitating cold.

Aaron Williamson provided a divertingly bad several minutes of a chap in a silver suit carrying a silver-painted wheel with a silver-painted plastic chair mounted on it. He very painfully crawls onto the stage under the “weight” of this and makes it three quarters of the way across before loosening the wheel and attempting to saw the chair in half with a blade mounted to his belt. Eventually he breaks the chair by sitting on it heavily. A technician comes on to tell him he’s had his time, so he pulls on the wheel and very slowly and painfully starts to crawl toward the side door, in darkness, the lighting having switched to Sinclair standing at the podium. When he finally makes it to the door (halfway through Sinclair’s next piece) a cheer goes up.

Having read the biography I assume that it was a reference to Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Also it’s a blessing that he couldn’t hear the heckling.

Laura mentioned afterwards that if he’d had the physical skills he could have pulled it off. Perhaps that’s true of all such Art: A performance artist with real movement skills is a mere mime; a video artist who is competent at shooting and editing becomes simply a film-maker. Their ineptitude is somehow a mark of their authenticity.

There was a lot of music, or at least Wire (or as they were calling themselves tonight, WIRE) stood in a line behind a table and showed how dull the interface between middle-aged men and technology can be. The one with direct control of the iBook jumped up and down whenever the drum beat came in. Wire used to be a jumpy and diverting new wave outfit. This sounded like something that Hawkwind in 1973 would have rejected as “a bit dull really”.

There were also two performances by Scanner (more than slightly stupid flash site here.

I suspect Robin Rimbaud isn’t his real name either.

Scanner’s gimmick is plundering the airwaves and stealing people’s tedious, mundane mobile telephone conversations and then, by some magical process known only to himself, making them even less interesting. Scanner is to vaguely arty events what Christopher Biggins used to be to B List celebrity parties. Front Row on Radio 4 is always noting some cultural event or other by commissioning “a new audio piece by Scanner”. It’s very difficult to tell whether this is a sign of desperation or mere laziness. In any case, any one piece by Scanner is very difficult to distinguish from any other piece by Scanner and Front Row might be better off finding out whether Lance Percival still did those calypsos. At least that way we’d get jokes.

Bruce Gilbert of WIRE also provided occasional loop things under Sinclair’s monologues that were pleasant enough in a background sort of way.

I do actually quite like electronica. When I was a lot younger, in fact I liked it a lot more. That is to say when the last lot of people were doing it or the lot before last. But in more and more of this sort of “event” the Powerbook (and I love the Powerbook) is posited as some sort of solution to a problem that doesn’t exist apart from the performers own sloth and ennui. It’s the sight of a group of men, as in the Monty Python sketch, too jaded to pay any attention to the miracle of birth any more as they’ve become so hypnotised by the Machine That Goes Ping.

Jimmy Cauty and some friends, dressed as Motorway workmen, performed a short stab of death metal, that was fairly diverting, though, and somehow fitted in with the evening.

So whereas I didn’t necessarily think it was a success directly I am an Englishman and can thus derive a lot of secondary entertainment from the opportunity to whine.

It looks quite masonic

When I extend my left leg down the ladder in the morning I get an extraordinary cramping pain shooting up the calf. It takes me several minutes to get round the bathroom and to the kitchen. Is this related to the flu? Can one get flu in one’s leg?

The phrases that pass my lips are somewhat stronger than those I invoked on Tuesday.

Janette and Bean have sent an e-card, which cheers me up no end.

I open the present that arrived from my sister: it is a Swiss Army Knife, specifically a model called The Motorist (which my sister admits is ironic) that appears not to be on the website. The ultimate Swiss Army Knife appears to be the SwissChamp XLT. On the European website this is described as being “for collectors”, whereas on the American site it’s called “The new standard for ultimate preparedness”. That may be the difference between us and them – they can’t actually imagine a European carrying one of those things around.

The fact that I’m now the possessor of a Swiss Army Knife gives me a tremendous thrill. Every practical person I’ve ever known has owned one and perhaps this marks my departure into practicality.

I drink a lemsip and go back to bed, dipping in and out of consciousness until 10:30 when I call Dave to suggest that, since I am incapable of movement, I might not make it to the rehearsal this afternoon. Then lapse into unconsciousness.

Dave calls back and asks me about the leg, suggesting that it might be the sort of thing I ought to ask the doctor about. When I finally wake up, I do so, and she suggests that I go round to see her in an hour’s time.

I have a bath (I’ve divided my time over the last few days between sleeping and sweating and occasionally – what the hell, push the boat out – sweating in my sleep) and go down there, where I’m ushered straight through to the emergency doctor.

The general fear seems to have been that it was a blood clot, but on looking at my leg (I’ve rolled up both legs so that she can compare the diseased leg with the putatively healthy one. It looks quite masonic) she decides that it’s more likely an infection. She calls in a colleague who agrees. It may not have been flu after all, but the side effects of my immune system trying to combat the infection – the infection will have been there first, but hiding in the shadows and only making itself known after I was irrevocably ill. There’s a comparison with Senator Palpatine, but I’m not going to be the person to make it.

I take a prescription for antibiotics and make my way round to the chemist, which also seems to have been taken over by pleasant, chatty women. I’m not complaining, it’s just odd: in my usual brushes with the medical profession around here they’ve never been less than professional and helpful, not unpleasant, but definitely not chatty. It’s nice, and certainly improves the whole illness experience thing.

As she’s handing me my prescription, one of the women in the chemists, the Irish one, notices my date of birth and says “Happy Birthday”.

Yes, indeed.

I waddle home with my antibiotics and a pack of those toothpick things that look like cutlasses.

I don’t know whether it’s the diagnosis, the antibiotics, the bath or the chattiness, but I’m definitely feeling better, if not yet well.

I find my ability to move somewhat impaired

I spent most of the day asleep, occasionally creeping from my shell to tell someone that I wouldn’t be able to do [whatever they wanted] on account of the fact that I find my ability to move somewhat impaired.

I do successfully locate the mains cable for the portable radio, which allows me spend much of the day drifting in and out of Radio 3 (including a Mahler symphony, which makes a jolly good accompaniment to fevered dreaming, very dramatic), to listen to Mark Steel on Napoleon and to The Archers, where the whole wretched adultery plotline carries on unabated. In fact it looked like they were going for two simultaneous adultery plotlines with Simon and Brenda, but thankfully they pulled out of that. I need my will to live at the moment and that might have sapped me of it.

My current hugely-wide-of-the-mark Archers prediction: that Kenton will accidentally kill his sister Elizabeth (who has a heart condition) at the Hallowe’en party next week. Or not kill, but make quite poorly. This is The Archers after all.

Feeling a lot… well, not better but less inclined to fall over during the evening. You may not care, but it means a lot to me.

“gosh!” “goodness!” and “my word!”

The day started normally at least.

Well, obviously there’s some debate over what “normal” constitutes, but I managed the shambling into consciousness thing.

The morning was spent fielding phone calls – Judith called about the Raisins and Almonds CD, which has had a few problems. These problems were not my fault per se, except perhaps my bad karma spilling over into someone else’s life. Any way, Judith called and told me she’d put the CD in the post and rang off so I could go downstairs and see whether it had arrived. It had. As had my package from DGM – the new King Crimson EP.

Judith calls back – the problem is where the printers have cut and moved film (which shouldn’t have been necessary) they’ve done it rather shoddily. I tell her that this is a standard part of the printer’s art but hardly the finest example of it I’ve ever seen (about 5mm out, which is quite a lot actually). For my part I wish I’d knocked back the background on the cover more.

Ah well.

Two more phone calls from prospective employers. This is good. In case you need to be told.

In the afternoon I decide to get a replacement metal thingy for the toilet, so set off for the infamous shopping centre. As I’m wandering around there I start feeling a bit… odd. I get home and have something to eat and feel odder. I’m getting attacks of shivering and spasms. I notice that the imprecations that pass my lips while I’m in the act of shivering spasmodically are such as “gosh!” “goodness!” and “my word!” which must mean something.

By half-past-six I’m flat on the floor listening to Pam Ayres on the radio. I don’t know whether the fact that I’m enjoying Ms Ayres is in anyway symptomatic of illness – perhaps it’s just that under such conditions we need comforting things such as honey or chicken soup. Or Pam Ayres.

She’s actually not bad. As a performance poet, or down-home sit-down comic. I’ve seen a few performance poets in my time and she’s as good as any of them (apart from a regrettable tendency to shout the last line of her poems in lieu of a punchline, although many of the poems have those too) and better than many. Of course this critical judgement comes from one who’s lying shivering on his living room floor with The Lurgi. Actually I think we can quite safely call this one ‘flu.

I potter around a bit before realising that I really ought to be in bed, find a portable radio, fail to find the mains cable for the portable radio and pass out at about 8:30.

I wonder if I caught it off someone on the way to the shopping centre. Perhaps if I’d stayed at home and not bothered to fix the toilet I’d have been all right. Quite a trade off: a convenient flush in exchange for one’s health.