Mangoed

It’s been a strange week – I was really, really tired for the first half and full of energy for the second, and I don’t know why.

Anyway. Prison on Monday went well, with the extraordinarily keen group producing loads of good work. We had lost two members from the previous week, but gained two others; this is how prisons are. The guy who had asked me to read all the poems in his folder had a bit of a panic, because I hadn’t read them and had left the folder at home, and he was to be shipped out on Tuesday. I have since read them. He’s a good poet, but – well, when he’s working with me I give him things to write about; on his own, he has just 5 topics: 1. You are the most wonderful woman I have ever met; 2. Why did you cheat on me? 3. Why did I cheat on you? 4. The system – ain’t it awful? 5. Perhaps there is some hope for the world.  After reading nearly 200 of these it became a bit tedious. Still, he’s young, and perhaps he’ll find more to write about as he gets older. I hope he finds someone at his next prison to push him a bit and move him along. Oh dear, that sounds really patronising, and it’s not meant to – I just like to see people reach their full potential, and often they need a bit of help .

The Writers in Prison Network is full of people who love their work and do amazing things in prisons – films and radio shows; full-scale plays. My prison is small and lacks facilities, so mostly we write – but the people who run the network are very supportive of this, so I guess it’s ok. We had a conference on Tuesday; these are always very encouraging and people leave enthused.

I’ve been to four schools this week, working on the Cheltenham Music Festivals schools singing project, Sing East Sing West. The kids were great, enthusiastic and willing to have a go at anything, and very helpful in turning my script into 10-year-old kidese. But at the last school – oh dear! – I made a girl cry. I work with four kids in each school, and while I’m with them decide who will be the two narrators and who will be the understudies. At this last school all four were girls, and stage-struck girls at that, and one of them cried when I said she was to be an understudy. The head was supportive – it’s a lesson that has to be learned, after all – but I did feel bad.Still, I have to choose the best ones, and she was just less focused than the others. The songs are sounding good – much better than when I listened to other performances of them on YouTube – and my narrators will be terrific. Just two more schools to go, now.

I’ve done some packing! Just some last few bits to do, now. I’ve also got completely up-to-date with all my Poetry on Loan work; soon, beautiful postcards with poems on will be appearing in libraries throughout the West Midlands; already, poets are out there, running workshops and giving performances; and although the work is tedious at times, it’s good to know that I’ve played a part in all this happening.

And I’ve done some gardening! Just maintenance work, really – clearing overgrown bits and spreading gravel on the drive. But I think really I should stay indoors. I found some rot in a post on the porch; fortunately it was wet rot, which is much less serious than dry rot, and in the last two days I’ve scraped out the rotten bits and treated the rest and filled it. If I get a chance to paint it today it will look as good as – well, not new, because it’s a 17th-century cottage; as good as old, then.

I should have gone to the hospital on Friday, but I had a bit of a stomach upset, and I don’t go near the patients, whose immune systems are depleted by the treatments, if there’s any chance I’ve got something that might be catching. Giving one of them a tummy bug would be much worse than making a girl cry. In fact, though, I think it was the mango I had eaten the day before. In the past, mangoes have upset my digestion, along with peppers, melon, and squashes. I wonder why?

So, in between schools and prison and conferences and gardening and packing and loads of prep, I’ve also wrapped my son’s birthday presents. He came home very late last night, and I’m waiting for him to get up now. I still like doing things for his birthday, even though he is a proper grwon-up man of 27. Later on, my daughter will arrive, and we are going to Go Ape, to spend a few hours swinging through trees. I thought this would be a good thing to do; it’s obvious who the kid is in this family.

And my Greek is developing well. At least, I think I’m doing well, but of course when I try to use it on holiday next week, I’ll forget everything, and they will speak very fast and I won’t understand a word. At least I know how to say Again, please, more slowly. No blog next week. I’ll be on a beach, or sitting in the sunshine, eating my favourite mango ice cream, which has never upset me in any way at all.

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