Driving days

There’s been a lot of driving this week. Wolverhampton on Monday went well. I’ve started with year 5 now, and they are just that bit more responsive and able than year 4; it makes quite a big difference with the journalistic writing I’m working on with them.

This week saw my first two real days at the prison. It was fascinating – so many points of interest. The security talk was rapid and not very well done, but brought home the essential points (keep the doors locked and tell someone if there’s anything of concern). The first real surprise was that in the education department, to which I’m attached, all the prisoners are referred to as Mr. and the surname – far more polite and formal than anywhere else, nowadays. I’ve met quite a few staff; I have varying reactions to them, as you would expect, I guess. All the prisoners I have met have been unfailingly polite and helpful, and in many cases eager to join in with some writing activity. I think this is going to be good.

More time off on Wednesday evening – ice skating with my daughter in Solihull. We used to go every week when she was much younger, and in those days I could jump and spin. Now – well, I was a bit nervous to start with, but it went ok, and I enjoyed the exercise and the experience again.

One day at home gave time for some much-needed prep, plus a meeting to discuss the costs of taking Once this was a poet to Edinburgh. It’s definitely doable – even more so since I received an email yesterday offering £400 of funding! Just like that. We’ll be going.

I travelled to Birmingham on Thursday to hear A.C. Grayling give a lecture as part of the Birmingham Book Festival, which is organised by the wonderful Jonathan Davidson. Grayling was good, as usual – amazingly knowledgeable without making the audience feel in any way inferior; speaking without notes for over an hour and finishing spot on time. His topic was reading, and I asked what he thought of the term “creative reading”, used extensively by people associated with libraries, particularly when in pursuit of funding. He though that reading is creative, because it can lead to changes in the reader. I disagree. I write; occasionally I write music and draw pictures, and I can recognize the similarities between the experience of doing all these things. There is a huge qualitative difference between this and the experience of reading. I think that for an activity to be creative, any changes must be initiated by the individual performing the activity; even for an active and willing participant in reading, any changes are essentially engendered by the writer. Ok, that’s the end of my lecture; much less erudite that A.C. Grayling ( which is also, I think,  the name of the philosophers’ football team. Ho ho), but informed by experience and observation.

Phew. Friday was back to Birmingham again, for my first Poetry on Loan meeting as co-ordinator. It went quite well, I think, although it was sad to hear of one authority which has had its budget slashed by 37% and can now do almost nothing to develop and encourage readers. From Birmingham, I drove off to be at the reopening of the bowling alley my son works at. He’s been working really hard on the refurbishment and wanted me to see what he had achieved, and it did look very smart.

And now – three days without driving – hooray! I love driving, but it can get tiring day after day. And I do feel a bit guilty about it, now. I would have liked to take the train to Birmingham on Thursday, but it would have meant an extra 3 hours on the total time, and waiting about on cold platforms. And these three days will still be very, very driven – so much to do! Good job I enjoy it all so much.

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