RIP OTWAP

It’s been an interesting week, to say the least. After working hard on Sunday, I planned an early night, but after I had turned out the light a poem reared its head above the sheets, and I had to stay up until I’d done a very rough first draft. Shame, really, becuse I was driving to Taunton the next day – exactly 100 miles. But the meeting went well, and they provided a lovely lunch, and I slept for a bit when I got home again.

There was a slight disappointment, though. For the last I-don’t-know-how-many years, I’ve been doing instant poetry for the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I go into various places – shoe shops, laundrettes, betting shops, changing rooms – and talk to people, and write them a poem on the spot. This year it won’t be happening. I’ve got a short spot on the open stage, but that’s it. I’ve always enjoyed doing these things, but I know they can’t go on doing the same stuff for ever.

No prison this week! I couldn’t fit it in with Ledbury Poetry Festival commitments and other things that were going on in the prison. However, I have finished planning my big diary project, and made posters. Yeah, right, they said – you and graphic design go together like porridge and mustard; but I’m quite pleased with them. Ish. And I’ve submitted some of the guys’ work to a magazine, and got the newsletter together and done lots of prep, so the prison certainly hasn’t been forgotten.

I’ve also done loads for Poetry on Loan, arranging poets’ visits and starting prep for our meeting next week. And the poetry postcards are out on the streets at last – hooray! Look in your local library, if you live in the West Midlands, and if they haven’t got any, ask why not.

I forgot to mention that a strange thing happened on my way home from Ledbury one day – my rear-view mirror fell off, as I was driving along. It was a bit of a shock. The car had been parked for some hours in hot sunshine, and I suppose the glue had just melted. I tried to fix it back on myself, using a kit bought from a petrol station, but I wasn’t able to get all the old glue off, and it didn’t work, so I had to take it into the garage. It cost nearly £20 to fix. £20! They explained why – they had taken ages to get all the glue off. So what sort of glue is this, that melts in the sun but then sticks like, like – well, you know what I’m getting at.

But most of the week has been dominated by Ledbury – prep for the events I have managed, and of course OTWAP. The very last performance. It all went really well. The cast were magnificent, continuing like true professionals through the power cut, and I was overwhelmed with appreciative comments afterwards. But the most important thing for me was that my son came. This was unexpected; he lives in London and had come specially just for this. I saw him just before we were due to start, and had to talk to him – the play is autobiographical, and contains some rather uncomplimentary comments about his father, but he said he would be ok with that.

Afterwards he left quite quickly, but I could see that he was a bit tearful. This wasn’t surprising. The play has a sad (but, I like to think, uplifting) ending, and most people have tears in their eyes. But he hadn’t realised that the play mentions him, as well, and especially a moment that meant a great deal to me at the time and still does. He blogged about it, and reading his blog made me emotional all over again, so I found it hard to concentrate the next day. It’s all credit to the cast and crew that the production altogether had such a profound effect on everyone, my son included. It’s such a shame that it won’t be on again. They had a standing ovation this time, and very well deserved it was too.

Anyway. As I was leaving Ledbury after the play, I passed the Prince of Wales pub – live poetry and music! I was called in by people I knew, and, of course, felt obliged to do a couple of poems. Good fun! Too tired to work when I got home, though.

Thursday was the hospital, and more lovely, brave people, and in the evening, the Lydney Festival slam. I’ve been running this for 5 years. It’s tiny; it’s relaxed and unpressured; it’s almost, but not quite, chaotic. This year we had only four entrants – two of my friends (one of whom won) and two very good local poets. The lovely Jonny Fluffypunk, who won it last year, was brilliant as the guest poet.

Friday back at LPF, for an event with my friend Ros Barber.  And I wrote the minutes for the meeting on Monday. One of these was fun and exciting, and the other wasn’t. Oh, and I had an email telling me that I have been invited to appear in the Cheltenham Allstars slam without qualifying, which is nice.

I have managed to do a little bit of gardening, but I’ve worked out that every hour I spend clearing my garden generates half a compost bin full of stuff. I have three compost bins; two are now full, and the other is processing. What can I do with it all?

So that’s it. OTWAP is gone, and now I must get on with preparations for Ring Round the Moon, TADS’ next big production, and then back for my last event at Ledbury. One day I’ll catch up with all the prison work, and typing up my new poems and plays, but this week more important things have happened. My son sent me a song he has found by a guy called Frank Turner (sounds like an Eastenders character, but isn’t). It’s terrific, and has a positive and uplifting message: somebody who is dying says “Dance for both of us; sing with all your heart.” I try.

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