The great outdoors…

That’s where I’ll be when I’ve done this blog. Well, when I say the great outdoors, I actually mean my drive. I’ll be driving a Very Important Poet around next week, and that means I must wash my car and – after months of telling myself I should – cleaning the inside as well. You see, I live in my car; I eat in it, and sleep in it sometimes, and naturally it becomes a little, well, lived-in. I need to get this done soon because my son will be home later and I want to spend some time with him; and he turns into a weeping rag if he’s near an open door. Hyperactive immune system, poor lad.

But, oh, it’s been a good week! I finished my hanging baskets last Sunday, and installed my new version of Publisher, ready for working on prison newsletters. On Monday I was in the hospital outpatients; it was a bit quiet, but a couple of people were keen to work on poems. And then on to Ledbury. The Poetry Festival is trying to get its policies sorted out – diversity, young people, safety, etc. I supplied them with templates to use as a basis for some of them, and I have therefore become the policies expert. So, we had a meeting to go through them all and make sure they were ok. Pretty dull stuff, you might think – but there are some unusual clothes shops in Ledbury and I did some naughty shopping.

Tuesday was the prison – a bitty day, but I got lots of little things done, and answered some of the email avalanche when I got home. I was back in the prison on Wednesday. The guy I work with on the newsletter has written a piece about how he came to be where he is; honestly, some people have very little chance of going straight. He was brought up in a family where “to call the police w***ers was as natural as putting milk on your cereal” he said. It’s a good piece.  My poetry group in the afternoon was a little tricky. I got into an argument with one of them on a point of logic – oh, why don’t they teach logic in schools? And there were the odd one or two who don’t believe that astronauts reached the moon. But I asked them to look at a picture of an astronaut doing a space walk, and asked them to write poems about what it would feel like, and they came up with some terrific stuff. It’s so rare that they are asked to use their imaginations in this way, to think deeply about how other people might feel – let alone people in situations which they have never and will never experience. I had to go straight afterwards to a Poetry Festival meeting, and then home; rather tired.

The training session I have spent so much time planning was on Thursday – and it worked. The creative element added quite a lot, I think; the participants really got into writing the stories of fictional young people, and how they might get involved with libraries.  Even the delegate who was thought to be quite a negative person was really engaged. A good day.

And on Friday I faced bravely the usual onslaught of emails, and did more work for Poetry on Loan – our lovely poetry postcards are nearly ready to go the printers now, and we’ve tracked down an elusive poet to do a couple of gigs for us in October.

On Friday afternoon I worked in the ward at the hospital. I spoke to a lady who loves being outdoors and taking photographs, but hasn’t been able to go for walks since August. She likes to capture things in pictures, and now she is captured. Here’s the poem:


When you walk along an old stone wall
From time to time, as seasons pass,
You see where tiny bits come off.
Unnoticed fragments are for me
The key to nature’s wonder.
I forage with a stick and under
Grass and leaves I come across
An unknown prize; a small surprise –
Fungus, perhaps. I photograph,
Enhance, and add a little verse,
And I have freeze-framed life –
It’s caught, and then it’s mine for good:
The moment when my granddaughter’s
Exquisite hair and open eyes
Were held; the bond, clear as a clasp,
That tied the man and boy, glimpsed deep
In talk; a biography I can keep.

For now, my life is captured, too.
Perhaps a drive, where we can laugh
At piglets, see sheep giving birth;
But no more dog walks round the village;
No chance to get close to the earth,
Carry on with my life’s story.
But all things pass. The open air
Is waiting; it will still be there.
The stone wall crumbles, but in time
It is rebuilt; and gardens grow;
And all this will be mine, I know.

She was tearful when I read it to her: “These are tears of happiness, not grief,” she said. She told me that it had all been very cathartic, and that now she felt inspired to do some more writing herself. This was, I think, a worthwhile hour.

And the sun was shining, and I mowed the grass. I still have lots of work to do before Tuesday, and somehow I have to find time to start my packing (I like to start packing early – it increases the lovely feeling of anticipation), but I am going outdoors now, in the sunshine. Words are wonderful, but sunshine is better.

1 thought on “The great outdoors…

  1. I would like it to be known that I do not simply cry at the sight of an open door. The allergens the Mother speaks of is Hayfever, and very bad it is too.

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