Why Heinz? See if you can guess.

I’m feeling a bit edgy at the moment – will I ever catch up with everything that needs to be done? Probably not, I think; today I’m trying to do just what I absolutely have to do before tomorrow. This is likely to be a short entry!

As promised myself last week, I have been outdoors a lot – car cleaning and gardening. I’ve cleared the patio, removing all the weeds growing between the paving stones (and there were a lot of them); I’ve planted, mowed, spread gravel, and attacked the undergrowth in the front garden, discovering dead things in the process. And live ones. At least I didn’t injure myself; I have a history of eye injuries while gardening.

I forgot to mention that I wrote a little poem last week, while waiting for a train. I typed it in on Monday and realised that it was number 600 in the oeuvre! If only they were all good ones. I’ve done a bit of practice for the Science Festival slam next week, but not enough – when can I find the time to stand in front of the mirror like an idiot, spouting poetry to myself?

Two days at the prison. On the first, my car wouldn’t start, but the AA man came in less than an hour and sorted it out. It was a direct result of the cleaning process – moving it from one part of the drive to another (and no, my drive isn’t as big as this makes it seem) meant that the engine had become flooded. At least it wasn’t anything serious. It had a service this week, too – 108,000 miles. There was no courtesy car available so I spent the day driving round in the Autostation van, doing a bit of advertising en route.

Anyway, the prison. A new poetry writing group started, with 7 members! This is a big group for a short-stay prison, and they all made real efforts, and we had a lot of fun. The other poetry group was far too chatty, although whenever anyone came in the guys happened to be concentrating hard on their writing, so it looked good. I asked them to write about what they liked about themsleves, and one or two found this really difficult. Even the most chatty ones (including the guy I had an argument with last week) became very thoughtful. On the second day I was working mostly on the newsletter, but it was gratifying to find that the prison staff are really using the book exchange box I took in – it had 7 new books in it. Excellent!

I went to see The Reader on Monday. Our local cinema / theatre is great for catching up with films after they have long gone from the big movie houses. It was an excellent film; lots about reading and prisons, so right up my street. And hey, an evening off!

On Wednesday I ferried Jackie Kay between two Poetry on Loan gigs. The first, in Eccleshall, was a delight – really enthusiastic poetry readers who really didn’t want to let her go. We did manage a swift half (not me, of course, because I was driving) before going to Wolverhampton. Again, there were some lovely people in the audience. Unfortunately the event was marred a bit by the support poet, who went on for twice her allotted time, despite the fact that she had completely lost the audience. She had a group of friends there, who behaved very rudely when Jackie was reading, nudging and whispering whenever she mentioned her sexual preferences. Homophobia is just not acceptable, in my view. Jackie was am excellent performer, and good company.

On Thursday evening I had to rescue a pigeon. Birds fall down the chimney into our living room fairly often. We don’t use it much, and occasionally they die in there, very sadly. This one was full of life, and executing the usual bodily functions in proof, all over the sofa. Lovely.

The worst moment of the week came on Thursday night. There is only one TV programme I watch regularly. I have been watching it regularly for 15 years, so when ER ended on Thursday night I was sad. Silly, I know, but it is such a well-written and performed series; I will miss it. The complete boxed set is a bit pricey.

And Friday was my birthday. I was a bit depressed in the morning, but spent some time with the usual inspirational people at the hospital, which made me feel better. In the evening my daughter and I went out for a meal, which really was lovely. And I had some smashing presents, including a tribble, two blueberry bushes, some music written especially for me, and some face cream  that promises to make all my wrinkles disappear instantly. Well, in four weeks, anyway. There’s still one presnt to come, from my son – and my present to him arrived this week, too (don’t read this, Math!). And there was an unexpected bonus of flowers. An iceberg rose, which I thought had been strangled by periwinkle, produced one flower; my Christmas cactus flowered; my orchid and my amaryllis , again usually Christmas flowering, if at all (the amaryllis hasn’t flowered for three years) – all came into flower at once; a real variety of flowers and colours, just for my birthday.

But now – oh, work! How will I ever get it all done? And have you guessed why this is a Heinz week?

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