Slammed

What a week! And this one’s going to be even busier.

As I promised last week, I’ve done more painting in my dining room. It does look better, but I’ve still got the white paintowrk to do at one end; I’m planning to just undercoat and gloss the opening windows today because I haven’t got time for anything else. I haven’t got time to do that, really, but it’s not going to rain today so I need to get on with it.

Monday I was running a training course in Swindon. Lovely Swindon. Actually, it was ok – the people organising the refreshments etc. were great, the participants were full of enthusiasm, my fellow trainers were good – it all went off really well. And the petrol nearby (Asda) was relatively cheap.

On Tuesday I was decorating. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have done this – it put too much pressure on the rest of the week – but I’m getting fed up with having dust sheets all over the floor. They will be there for months yet, though. While paint was drying, I refrained from watching it, and did lots of prep instead, and answered emails.

Prison on Wednesday was rather frustrating – the usual problem that guys in the group have gone (including the really funny Polish one). I spent a lot of the day arranging a little ceremony to award certificates; this sort of thing takes ages in a prison. I’ve realised that the reason there are so many brick walls in prisons is to make it convenient for banging your head against.

I went straight from the prison to the Writers in Prison Network conference, held in the middle of Wales. As usual this was fun and invigorating, and it was great to meet the other writers. Look at Jane Gallagher’s blog (www.thesmallfabricofmylife.blogspot.com ) for some unflattering photos. And I found out that the Koestler awards had been announced, so as soon as I got home on Friday I checked them. The Koestler awards, I should explain, are given to prisoners for artistic efforts – visual art, music and writing. Guys in my prison have won 6 awards for their writing! I was really chuffed about this; it just wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been there. I can’t wait to tell them tomorrow.

On Friday evening I was slamming in Malvern. This was the first slam that had been run in Malvern, and was held in a youth club. I wanted to do it largely as practice for the Radio 4 semi-final, but a very strange thing happened – I had the lowest score I have ever had in a slam! Later, I found out why. The poem I did has a rather disparaging reference to long shorts. One of the judges (marking performance) was a young lad from the youth club, about 14 or 15 I would guess, and he was wearing long shorts; he took exception to this comment and gave me only 10 out of 100. Now, I could understand this; it was a weird thing, an anomaly, but it really dented my confidence.

On Saturday I was slamming in Tewkesbury. I got through the first heat ok, with a different poem, and then in the semi-final just decided to do a serious one, about prisons, although I knew I would never get through to the finals with it. Sometimes you just have to do these things. I got a reasonable mark, anyway, and came third.

During the day, before the slam, I decorated and did some gardening, or rather hacking about. I find it really difficult to concentrate on the day of a slam – and the same was true of Sunday. I answered loads of emails, but didn’t get nearly as much done as I had hoped. So – off to Reading for the Radio 4 national poetry slam semi-final. I got through the first round, but didn’t make it through to the final. The standard in the second round was extraordinarily high, and two of the finalists were clear from the start. But I did the poems ok, and again got a reasonable mark, and I don’t really mind all that much. If I had got into the final, I know I could never have beaten either of the two really good guys; and this way I have the opportunity to have another go in two years’ time. One day I want to be the oldest finalist! And on the way home, I wrote a new poem, for the Bilston Hallowe-en slam, so that’s ok.

And here I am now, with a huge list of jobs to do, wondering how on earth I’m going to get through everything. Time to stop blogging and get on with life, I guess.

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