Car parks and road maps

When I was working in business, for a company that made computer-controlled warehouse management systems (stay awake at the back, please), I was walking out of a warehouse in France with a colleague, an old and dear friend, and he said, “What are you going to put in your book about that one, then?” “What book?” I replied, always keen to help with a joke (and I hadn’t really started writing then). “You know – ‘Interesting warehouses I have seen.'”

I’m feeling a bit that way about car parks, at the moment. The week started with a trip to Chatham on Sunday night; I was training library staff the next day. There were other cars in the hotel car park. It was a big hotel, at least 100 rooms. But I didn’t see anyone else at all while I was there, apart from the staff. No sounds echoed down the corridors; no alien loos flushed; I ate my breakfast skulking at the edge of a room full of places laid for ghostly guests. It was like something out of a horror movie. Actually, there was one sound – the reception desk chap turned piped music on when he came on duty at 5 am, not realising that it was also piped through to the speaker in the corridor right outside my room. Bet I was the only one to phone and make a fuss though.

I drove twice round the car park near the library where I was working, looking for the entrance, until I realised that the tiny gaps between vicious fencing were the entrances. I breathed in deeply (always works) and squeezed through them, ignoring the paint scrapes on either side from other, less successful cars. The training went well.

And I had to help sort out a parking ticket problem. One of the poets I had looked after on Saturday had arrived only just in time for the event, and rushed in, omitting to pay the ridiculously low Ledbury car park charge. Only after she started driving off did she see the parking fine notice stuck to her windscreen, but she was following someone and couldn’t stop to take it off – and it blew away of its own accord, in the wind and rain. You wouldn’t make that story up, would you?

Wednesday was a bit of a mixed day. Off to Birmingham for a training course (using whiteboards and other technology in creative writing teaching – very useful!), and then to the schools singing event at the Town Hall in Cheltenham. There were hundreds of kids! All crammed on to the big stage. I managed to find all my narrators (except the one who was off sick, and the one who was taking a violin exam… just the usual) and rehearse them. The event in the evening was wonderful – joyous, really; and my narrators performed like the stars they were. Great fun.

By now I had been in five car parks, but on Thursday my car stayed happily in the drive, while I finally caught up with all the left-over emails. Hooray! And re-fixed my washing line, and tidied the whole house.

Friday was Ledbury again, reading some of the poems I wrote last year about the floods. It was an interesting event – me and four other poets, all prizewinners, and we had a good audience who seemed to enjoy it a lot. It was filmed, and should be available to watch on the Ledbury portal website. The guy doing the filming was a very old friend of Pete, my late husband, and it was good to see him again. I couldn’t stay to see any other events, unfortunately, because my son was going on holiday that day and needed last-minute help – he hasn’t been on holiday for five years, poor thing, and has lost the knack.

I spend ages planning routes. The trip to Medway was a good example – I looked at three web-based routefinders, each of which suggested a different route, none of whcih I would have chosen myself. So yesterday I gave in and bought a TomTom satnav. I’m not at all sure about this, but it could save me a lot of time if I just do as I’m told. For a change.

Late night last night, finishing the evaluation report for training I’ve organised for my libraries project in the North West, but it’s done now and can be ticked off the diminshing list of outstanding jobs. I’m feeling better than I was at the start of the week – but there is still all the snail mail, piled up on the table, looking accusingly at me whenever I eat a meal.

Oh – important thing for anyone who is interested: I have sent out loads of emails saying that Once this was a poet will be on in the Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 13th. But yesterday I had a phone call asking if we would be ok to do it on 14th instead. I haven’t managed to contact all the cast and crew yet – but if you had 13th in your diary to come and see it, please change it now! And then check again when the brochure comes out, just in case it changes again.

That’s it for this week. My letter-knives are at the ready, and I’m going to attack the mail.

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