I’ve been at home nearly all week! What luxury. It all started well, with an excellent rehearsal of the play. Jill Misson came to make three little radio shorts. She had said she wouldn’t stay for the runthrough, but Paula, my leading lady, and I had a little bet that she wouldn’t be able to leave part way through, and we were right – she stayed until the end. Yes! She has since sent me the CD with the three little 5-minute pieces, and they’re excellent; a fine piece of radio, in my view.
Staying with me on Sunday were my friends Paul and Ros from Brighton. Ros Barber is a fine poet, and I had got her a gig at Buzzwords, Cheltenham’s monthly poetry cafe; she read from her new book, Material, which is well worth a look if you like poetry that’s accessible and meaningful.
Oh, I forgot – on Saturday evening I went to a Ledbury Poetry Festival meeting, at a delightful old house near Ledbury owned by some Festival patrons. I hadn’t met them before, and they were delightful too. It was an extremely civilised evening, and I don’t seem to get many of those. And I fell in love – with their wonderful dog, which is part wolf. They wouldn’t let me take her home, though.
And then from Monday to Thursday I prepared for and finished off lots of things – for my Reading Agency work, and the adult literacy sessions, and the Wolverhampton school project and the LitFest sleeping and dreaming project and Poetry on Loan and for a kids’ workshop in half-term. I created a flyer to kick off my prison work, by telling people what it’s all about and asking them what they would be interested in. And I typed up some of my Novel.
I even managed to do some gardening – but my new mower refused to work. What is it with me and mowers? Have I upset the entire mower race at some point? It’s in the garage now, sulking, and I can hardly bring myself to look at it.
The adult literacy sessions continue to be terrific. I’m sure one of students won’t mind my reproducing his poem:
I would be the mattress,
feeling the shape of her body.
I’d be the secret friend she talks to
silently as she falls asleep.
I’d be the lamp she turns on and off.
I’d be the window sill, the misty dirty window,
and all her wardrobe clothes.
I’d be satisfied only when the door is closed.
Not bad, eh?
And for the first time I have won a page poetry (as opposed to slam poetry) competition! I’ve been runner-up for a couple of things, but my poems aren’t the sort that win competitions, usually. This one, however, will not make any headlines. It’s was for Warwickshire Registry Office, looking for new pieces to offer people to use in ceremonies – naming ceremonies, weddings, civil partnerships, etc. They’ve chosen my poem to include in their booklet for naming ceremonies. They said they would send me “a small gift”, and they did. Aball-point pen. With Warwickshire written on it. That’s it.
And the week finished in a rather mixed way. I spent Saturday writing poems with people in Cheltenham about families; rather strangely, everyone in Cheltenham seems to have had idyllic experiences of family, so the poems all came out a bit, well, twee. Never mind; the people loved them, and were surprised and pleased at the experience. I ran an open mike session in the open air on the Promenade in Cheltenham, and that went well, too. A noteworthy thing happened during the open mike. Two boys came along on skateboards, making a loud noise as their wheels ran over the pavement. Seeing what was going on, they stopped, picked up their boards, and walked past, remounting when they would not disturb things. I’ll remember this next time I hear people slagging teenagers off.
And then it was the big slam – the Cheltenham Allstars. Paula, who hadn’t been to a slam before, came with me, and I explained that if you were pulled out of the hat first you just about gave up hope. The audience is cold, and the judges haven’t got to grips with their scoring yet, and somehow it just never works. So what happened? I was pulled out first, and although I was quite pleased with the way I did the poem (it’s called W) and with the audience reaction, I was knocked out in the first round. It wouldn’t have made any difference, though – the guys who reached the final were all better than I am and I wouldn’t have won. But – well, I’m only human, and it’s still disappointing.
But – my daughter is home, and it’s a lovely day again, and it’s the last rehearsal of Once this was a poet today, and next week is the performance. And I’ll forget about home life for a while.