Catching up

I love it when I’ve caught up! Not that it happens very often, but today, after a really, really busy week, I’m feeling ok.

I caught up with my mum on Sunday night – I stayed overnight with her ready for two meetings in Manchester on Monday. As usual she criticised my lack of make-up, but did at least say that my outfit looked good on Monday. I am running a campaign to persuade her that the Daily Mail is wrong about, well, nearly everything; I tell her about the redemptive power of writing with prisoners, and occasionally she does admit that perhaps they aren’t just evil men out to get little old ladies like her. She’d be furious if she knew I was calling her a little old lady, but the facts are that she is 81, 5 feet tall, and tries to be ladylike.

Manchester was warm and sunny! No, honestly. It does happen sometimes. One of my favourite quotes is by, I think, Thomas Beecham, who said he would like to die in Manchester because the transaction between Manchester and death would be almost unnoticeable. How unkind, I think, smirking unkindly. Manchester does, after all, have a huge Primark. Anyway, the meetings went well – productive and useful – and we had lunch out.

Tuesday was a staff day for The Reading Agency. I usually feel slightly guilty about these – a day with no responsibilities, for which I get paid – but this time I like to think I made one or two useful suggestions. And the lunch was excellent, as always. And that night I wrote a poem:

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The term that’s used by birders

(which is what we have to call them

now that twitching’s out of fashion)

for sparrows and the like.

No midnight corvid’s brooding;

no magpie’s panda clash;

no golden pheasant’s boasting,

or flamed kingfisher flash;

just the dull and muddy camouflage

of small brown birds.

What if my angel has no

iridescence in his wings?

I’ve always, in imagination,

seen him as a swan,

white-hot and frozen,

but suppose he chirps, and doesn’t sing?

What if every one of us

has the angel we deserve;

and that cosmic flap I’ve sometimes heard

comes not from feathered glory,

but a rather larger version of

a small brown bird?

Wednesday was prison. A buffet lunch. The Governor came to speak to us. He is, I’m sure, extremely good at public speaking, and he has been terrific in his support of me, but I think he missed an opportunity this time to ask people in the education department how they were, rather than give a little speech. At least one of them is on sick leave because of stress; it can be very hard working in a prison day after day. But still, at least he came – which is more than my new line manager did, to a meeting she had booked with me. I was slighly peeved, but while I was waiting wrote a little verse. Get me, writing two poems in a week! Perhaps it’s all coming back.

One of my prison writing groups went really well. I was concerned, though, about the next issue of the newsletter; I had  no news, no items, no artwork; all the stuff people had promised to me had not been delivered. But the next day things changed – artwork and pieces appeared everywhere, and I went home feeling good.

In between the two days at the prison I went to an open mic session in Cheltenham – Earshot. It was amazingly well attended – must have been 30 or 40 people there. I went on first (had to leave early for 5:30 awakening the next day) and did two poems, one I’ve done before, which didn’t go down all that well this time, and a serious one about prisoners, which did. And I caught up with a  couple of people I hadn’t seen for a long while, which was nice.

I also had a bit of a panic. Outside the door when I got home on Wednesday was a box of flowers. Lovely, I thought, one of the kids has sent me flowers for Mother’s Day. But no. These were the flowers I had sent to my mum. Addressed wrongly. By me. The panic was, of course, that I had to arrange for some more to be sent to her – which I did, and they arrived in time, so all was well.

Where next? It’s been a frantic week. Oh yes. Thursday evening was more catching up, and yet more food – supper with friends whom I haven’t seen for ages. They are lovely people, both doctors – tall, good-looking, well-read, interesting, funny. They would be quite sickening if they weren’t so nice. They helped with some technical terms for the science festival slam poem, and we talked about the ArtLift project.

Friday was the adult literacy students, plus kids, in Hereford. All of them were more relaxed this week, and it was great fun. And in the afternoon I went to the hospital and worked with a lady who, although she knew her illness was terminal, was determined not to be miserable. So many of them are like that; it’s humbling.

And yesterday I worked and worked and worked, doing all the write-ups and record-keeping and email answering left over after a week of coming home just to sleep and feed the cat (and empty the litter tray, which I hate doing). And I even mowed the front weedpatch. I haven’t got round to the back one yet; that means starting the mower, an activity always fraught with problems. Today I should get up-to-date with all my prep for this week, and I’ll have lunch out yet again with my kids; it will be good to catch up with everything they have been doing. Next week will be busy too, but I’ve planned it all out so that in theory, I won’t get behind with anything; then there’ll be no need to catch up. I hope.

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