Giving in

I’ve given in, this week. On Sunday, we had an excellent rehearsal of Once this was a poet, and I gave in to the concern that we might be over-rehearsed, and said we wouldn’t have a rehearsal this week. Everyone else agreed that that was the best thing to do; but now, of course, Im worried. Still, nothing I can do about it, so that’s that.

On Monday I gave in to my sense of duty and went to Manchester, despite the fact that I clearly wasn’t well. I attended the meeting and took the minutes, but my voice ran out completely; it was really hard work to say anything, and it must have been pretty bad to listen to. By the evening I had a thumping headache, too, so then I really, really gave in. I was due at the prison on Tuesday, but if I had gone in I would have had to run all my sessions using semaphore or mime – not easy! So I stayed at home, and did a bit of work and a lot of sleeping; and then repeated the process on Wednesday; and by Thursday morning I was much, much better. Hooray! I have shaken off, at last, what is probably the worst bout of flu I have ever had. I’ve still got a faint headache and a slight huskiness, but never mind.

Oldies on Thursday. First I worked with a lovely old lady who fell for her husband at first sight, and was married 55 years before he died. We chatted and I put what she had said into a poem, and she cried – in a good way, I think: “So many memories,” she said. The next was much more difficult. She had asked me to come and talk to her, and then proceeded to read the newspaper while I asked her questions. Never mind mime; this was writing by mind-reading. But the third, a lady with a wicked sense of humour, made up for it. And it was such a lovely day, that when I got home, I washed my car.

In the days of illness, I did some Poetry on Loan work. Now, we have had a good idea in Poetry on Loan. We have commissioned poems from local poets on the subject of Heroes and Heroines (this year’s National Poetry Day theme), and the best will be printed on postcards – very nicely designed postcards, I should add – and given away at libraries. We’ve done this before. This year, though, we are thinking of putting them on posters, too, and printing more, and making this the Big West Midlands Poetry Read, and getting people to vote for their favourite – all between June and October. So it was slightly disappointing to hear that the BBC are planning to print poems on postcards, give them away in libraries – between June and October, naturally –  and get the whole country to vote for their favourite. Rats! We might try to find a way to work with them; we’ll see. At least it shows it was a good idea, I guess.

The week ended with cancer patients at the hospital. I won’t talk much about the first one, who blamed her cancer on the bitterness caused by an auction of some of her stock (she’s an antiques dealer) that raised much less money than she had expected. It’s stuff, I wanted to say, just stuff. But anyway, she was delighted with the poem…and so were the two or three others who I worked with later. But the last one was really special –  a lady who knew her illness was terminal, and asked me to help her write a poem to be read at her funeral. Yes, we cried; but we laughed, too; she had an even more wicked sense of humour than the older lady the day before, and if the mourners don’t go out laughing it won’t be for any want of trying. She is a terrific woman, and I just hope that whoever reads the poem does it well. I did think of offering, but that would have been presumptuous.

And what this woman is doing is not giving in. She has accepted that she is going to die, but she is not allowing the knowledge to stop her life yet. An example to everyone, really. Again, I had that feeling that I am profoundly privileged to do what I do, to be able to help people in a way they don’t expect, and to make a real difference.

And yesterday was another lovely day, and my holiday is only 17 weeks away; and today I might, I just might, catch up. I’ve spent the week giving in, but I will not be daunted by the number of jobs on my list. Not yet, anyway.

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