29 November 2005

A Number of Entirely Disparate Things

My self-enforced caffeine fast is nearly at an end now. Come Thursday I will once again be permitted tea (which I almost certainly won't bother with, in the normal run of things), chocolate (which I most certainly shall) and, of course, coffee, which at present the jury's still out on. If it turns out that I still can't write without the stuff, then obviously it's a necessity. If it turns out that I now can (and I'm going to give it a good try), then I shall reserve it for special occasions, like when I'm having to stay up late or be socially vivacious beyond the call of duty, and subsist for the rest of the time on decaff.

I need, of course, to make the experiment in the first place. So far -- apart from these blog entries, which I realise aren't necessarily evidence of anything -- I've managed an idea and a page-long plot synopsis for a novel. I clearly need to attempt something more substantially creative than that, involving the extensive manufacturing of actual prose. Still, there's no shortage of speculative projects (plus one rather more definite thing) which I've been meaning to get round to for ages now.

One thing I have discovered over the past three months is that ginseng, ginkgo biloba and omega-3 oils, while quite possibly splendid and healthful things in themselves, do not in any capacity substitute for caffeine. The only thing which substitutes for caffeine, so my contact at the local health food shop tells me, is something else with caffeine in it, which isn't a terribly useful piece of information.

This morning I came into work by bus and train, as the Met Office was warning of severely icy roads in, among many, many other places, Bristol. Since being here I've been phoned by our burglar alarm to let me know it's been set off. This is almost certainly the result of a cat fight (as it has been on the previous 20 or 30 times this has happened), but on this occasion I can't moped home to check, which is distressing me at present. Still, never mind.

Had a very pleasant weekend with B., taking advantage of the fact that after her nightmarish November she no longer has to work on Sundays. We scouted out the route of a pub crawl we're thinking of holding around the pub-rich Hotwells district of Bristol. We easily found five hostelries within short walking distance of one another which offer a fine selection of real ales, including The Bag O'Nails which boasts up to seven guest ales (and whose name, fabulously, is supposed to be derived from "bacchanalia"), and Bath Ales's The Merchant's Arms, where I lingered lovingly over a pint of Festivity, their gorgeously flavoursome dark rum porter.

(And from researching those links, I now see that the 2006 Bristol Beer Festival has finally been scheduled. Hurrah. Right, I'm going to get organised about inviting people down for that as well.)

We followed our beer with the Advent Service at St Mary Redcliffe, the church which seems to serve Bristol in the capacity of a cathedral (in terms of being big, popular and resolutely High Anglican) despite the fact that Bristol has a perfectly decent Church of England cathedral at its disposal. My taste in worship is fairly eclectic, but for an Advent service, complete with minor-key hymns and candles against the dark and cold of a winter night, it's difficult to beat high-church Anglicanism. I'm going to make a real effort to go back there for their Nine Lessons and Carols on the 18th.

Meanwhile, I've started -- and, because it's so bloody good, something like nearly finished -- Pattern Recognition, William Gibson's non-SF thriller. It's absolutely enthralling, and also conceptually astonhishing as Gibson's cyberpunk aesthetic -- originally intended as a metaphor for the disorientation and alienation of commodified modern living -- is applied directly, and without imaginative prophylaxis, to the real world.

I'm surprised to see most of the reviews at Amazon being so negative about it (although I suppose it might yet turn out anticlimactic). A full review may well follow at some point, although Anansi Boys is still ahead of it in the queue.

No sign of The History of Christmas as yet.

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