It has been a very strange and most stressful time in my life. However, I do manage to derive a little comfort from my allotment at Earwig Corner, Lewes.
We have had the allotment for a couple of years now. It was in a bad way when we took it over, and last year was the first that I managed to get it fully cultivated.
This year - after lousy weather and bad things happening generally - I am just getting stuck into it, putting in new crops, encouraging self-seeding ones that have made an unexpected come-back, and digging it over and removing the weeds.
I have to confess I particularly like being up at Earwig Corner when no one else is there; in the evenings (when light permits) or other unpopular times.
There is a tremendous tranquility about the place as the sun goes down behind the hill.
This is when I get the most (cultivational) work done and have the greatest enjoyment of the view across the meadows and down the valley to the snaking Ouse and the railway line headed for the big bad city (boo!)
Keeping up an allotment, you tend to think progress is slow and not easy to discern.
But looking back at the photographs that I have taken at Earwig Corner over the last couple of years, you can see a lot of activity - and change.
Those images are scattered throughout this blog entry. . . going backwards in time.
The other way I have of keeping my sanity is going down to the seaside.
Fortunately, near Lewes there is plenty of it to choose from.
At Easter, I went down to Hastings and Brighton. It was glorious at both locations.
In Hastings, I came across an alien playing pool. Decent chap, not at all like the rotten eggs on Doctor Who.
I also went on to Ore - God knows why, it is like the housing estate from hell - and had a spicy kebab and drank a pint in a pub which was closing down. I think I caught its last day ever.
Sad, really, it had a bit of everything, and was rather like a living room inside. The sort of street corner "local" public house that will soon be history throughout these isles.
What has happened that I can tell you about?
I was in a bit of a state during the run-up to it, for other reasons, but it all came together on the night.
The audience reaction was very positive and the Oxford Times's critic Angie Johnson gave it a rave review, calling it as "hugely entertaining".
Thanks, Angie! You're a diamond!
The venue - at the Copa Bar, in the centre of Oxford - was excellent, and the OxFringe technicians extremely helpful.
The show's success gave me a confidence boost.
* My friends at the Runaway Cafe, at Lewes Station, are having a hard time.
Vic and Jackie Elsey, have not had their lease renewed by the railway company, Southern, and are being told to give their famous establishment a McCorporate makeover to slake the desire of the pen-pushers at Southern HQ for uniform catering branding!
Of course, this has gone down terribly badly with Southern passengers who love The Runaway with its good, freshly made food and opera, poetry and wacky jokes from Vic.
Lewes is a traditional place of independent spirit.
People here don't like seeing local businesses driven out to be replaced by ghastly food chains with poor service, over-priced food - and less-than-zero atmosphere.
I have set up a Save The Runaway blog in support of the cause - and there is also a great deal of online activity happening about it on various FaceBook sites.
I have written a campaign poem which is reproduced at the bottom of this blog entry.
[7 April update: I have just heard that Vic and Jackie have won their battle and are having their lease renewed - and, to celebrate, read the poem out on local radio this morning!]
We dedicated the March edition of Lewes Poetry, at the Lewes Arms, to the cause of saving The Runaway and collected signatures of support, many from people at an Amnesty International meeting in the neighbouring room!
The great Martin Newell - one of Britain's leading performance poets - headlined the Lewes Poetry gig and was absolutely superb.
He really is a fantastic poet and performer.
It was just a shame he didn't get the size of audience he deserved.
Nevertheless, the pop star Captain Sensible was among the few onlookers.
He seemed an extraordinarily pleasant man.
Chatting to him I found it quite hard to picture him in The Damned.
Still, none of us is getting any younger.
Here's a picture of Earwig Corner in January or February this year (2010) when there was still ice as thick as concrete.
Lewes FC, the Mighty Rooks, are also fighting desperately to stay up in their current league.
There have been some great matches this season and, also admittedly, some terrible football from Lewes at times.
However, the Mighty Rooks do not deserve to go down.
They are fundamentally too good a team for that.
So, it was gratifying to see Lewes FC beat Welling (The Mighty Del Boys) in a glory day at the Dripping Pan.
The Mighty Del Boys are among the most successful teams in the league - with also one of the most pugacious away-supports.
At one point, when a Welling player was sent off and some unfortunate banter was exchanged between rival sets of fans, I thought there was going to be a riot!
It all seemed quite exciting.
For me it was the proverbial six-pinter (of Harvey's Best Bitter, that is) as the opposition chanted: 'You've got lovely beer.' Indeed, we have.
It is a beautifully thought-through club with moving visuals behind the acts, a tequila slammer open spot section and even shakers and rattles provided for the audience to fully show their appreciation.
I particularly liked the compere, Dan Cockrill, who was entertaining and welcoming and kept things moving at a cracking pace.
I like the space as well - the top room of a loud, trendy and buzzing Borough pub called The Roebuck.
I shall certainly be going back.
The other big event recently was Smiffy's second birthday.
The Smiffster had a party with cake, balloons and, of course, presents.
Smiffy looked a bit bemused, although I think he enjoyed it. He had a good go at catching his clockwork mouse.
On the social front, I met up with fellow blogger Steerforth at the Lewes Arms for another proverbial six-pinter.
He was just as interesting as his Age of Uncertainty blog, which I can highly recommend.
To my amazement, he has even written about me.
What will the next few months bring?
Anyway, I am sure I am sure I will find some solace at Earwig Corner.
Here are some more images:
And here's the poem:
Heavenly fresh coffee,
The tastiest bacon in town,
Milk lovingly ladled into good tea
’Twixt opera as Vic’s quips abound.
Goodfellowship and fine fare meet
At The Runaway – the commuter’s treat!
Camaraderie true in ev’ry way
In this sanctuary, clean and cozy,
The living picture of The Runaway
Where even blue Monday turns up rosy,
A service bespoke, time-honoured, compleat,
Where passengers leave smiling, replete.
Ought we trade this rare gem for a plastic shell
With the McCorporate gleam of fast-food chain
And bored staff who feel themselves reborn in hell
In a pen-pusher’s scheme that knows no shame?
- We won’t be druv, in Lewes we say,
Together we’ll save The Runaway!
Oliver Gozzard, April 2010