Decision time

I’ve made a few decisions this week – not huge ones, but important to me – and other people have made decisions, too which will affect quite a few people.

I finished the report for the Arts Council. It’s strange that you can do bits and pieces of work here and there, and it doesn’t seem to add up to much, but when it’s all put together in a report it looks quite impressive. It’s up to them, now, having received the report, to say whether Poetry on Loan can have its next bit of funding. I think they will make the right decision, but we’ll see.

On Monday, I went to a seminar bringing together reader development staff from libraries; some specialised in adult reader development and some in young people. I had thought that there might not be a good turnout, but it was full, and several people came up with plans for working more closely together in future – all credit to the Time to Read co-ordinator, Jane Mathieson, for organising it.

Two days at the prison followed. The first was a long day – 8am until 7 pm, with only two 15-minute breaks. Staying in the evenings sometimes means I can work with guys who spend most of the time in the workshops (doing unbelievably mind-numbing activities). This really paid off. One of the two I worked with has had almost no education, and together we looked at his first imaginative piece of writing; he knew the ending wasn’t right, but sorted it out with just a little prompting. I helped the other one write a love poem for his girlfriend (I love it when they ask me to do this), and the next day he said, That was really good last night, miss. Can we do some more poems, please? Yes! My drama and playwriting group steamed ahead with their short play, set in a Las Vegas casino (and why not? too much prison writing, in my opinion, is based on prison life), but yet another member of my other group had been released, so I spent a three-hour session with the one remaining guy. Intensive, but he worked so hard it was worthwhile. And the newsletter is coming along nicely.

And then – oh joy! – a day at home. I needed this because it was time to do my end-of-year accounts, and try to catch up with this week’s email heap. Having a headache didn’t help (caused by lack of sleep, as usual), and I had to give in and go to sleep for a couple of hours.

I had my last (for now) session with the oldies in Ledbury on Friday. There were a couple there with whom I had worked before, and they told me how much they liked their poems, that they were up on the wall, etc. – which was very gratifying. I worked with one 92-year-old, but then they were all busy playing dominoes and other games, and wouldn’t be interrupted, so I wrote a poem with one of the helpers. I try to do these poems in a form that the participants would like; for oldies this tends to mean a strong rhythm and a firm rhyming scheme, and being released from these shackles for the helper’s poem was a joy. She really liked the result, too.

And then to a meeting with the lovely Philippa, from the Cheltenham Festivals Education department, and the equally lovely Liz Terry, a singer with talent and enthusiasm, to talk about this year’s Music Festival schools Songs project. It’s going to be really tricky to work up a script for this one because of the songs we are to use, but I’ll have a go – I like a challenge. And this year we will be working with 6 schools rather than 8, which makes it a little easier. However, the project does mean that I have no spare time at all in June / early July, which made it a bit easier to make the decision to turn down the offer of a great piece of work with a dancer in a school in Oxford. I wish I could have done it, but sometimes even I can say no; and the briefest glance at my diary showed how impossible it was to find even a couple of days.

Meanwhile, reports are trickling in from the projects in the north west, signalling my need to start collating their information into one big evaluation report. This would be much easier if the 19 library authorities concerned all got their stuff to me on time. The deadline was 1st April. On 1st April, I had received 2. I now have 5. They have known the deadline for 3 months. Why oh why oh why? Sometimes I feel like Mr. Irritable from Sevenoaks who writes letters of complaint.

And I made a big decision, and ordered a brand new lawnmower, at incredible cost. No more faffing about with jumpleads, or having to push the wretched thing up the garden when it stops mid-mow; a three-year guarantee, and a promise from the nice people in Haywards in Tewkesbury that they would look after it well. Today, of course, the old mower started. They are in it together, I think – a conspiracy of mowers, all out to get me down.

What really got me down, though, was an email on Friday night from a good friend, who was upset. She is such a nice person, and it made me sad.

I’ve made another decision, too, about my work, but I can’t mention it here yet.

And now – well, do I stay indoors and get on with prep for next week, emails and making a start on my big evaluation report? Or do I go out in the sunshine and have a go at some gardening? If I do that, will I still be able to got to Buzzwords, the Cheltenham Poetry Cafe, tonight? Or shall I just have some lunch?

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