Most weeks I do a lot of stuff. Some weeks I do a lot of stuff, with not much to show for it at the end, and this has been one of those – preparation, preparation, preparation, as Tony Blair didn’t say.

I have answered literally (and I don’t use the word lightly) hundreds of email – for Poetry on Loan, for the BBC My Story project that I’m co-ordinating for The Reading Agency;  for the projects in the north west and south west… all sorts. I like allsorts, liquorice ones, but I daren’t have them in the house because they are one of the few foodstuffs that I really can’t resist; I’ll just eat them and eat them until I feel sick.

Anyway. On Monday I did the prep for the last third of the dining room – washing ceilings, getting sugar soap in my eyes, sanding, filling – all the boring bits. And I transplanted a penstemon that really wasn’t very happy in a pot. Whether it will survive in the garden, ina  root bed of nettles, I don’t know, but it seemed only fair to give it a chance. My next door neighbour had trimmed my conifers, leaving bits all over the gravel drive, so I cleared all those away – backbreaking work. And I did lots of work on the 8 days book. I also phoned a poet who is doing an event in Birmingham, and does not use emails, or even a computer; he is travelling from London, and expected me to know the times of the trains, and where they leave from. I said I would find out for him, but he said not to bother, in a very disappointed tone. Honestly! Poets!

Monday was painting, and 8 days, and prep for a meeting tomorrow, and arrangements for some sessions with ESOL students (people whose native language is not English) – should be fun. I went to the hospital and worked with two ladies who were inpatients; one an amzing 75-year-old who went backpacking round New Zealand when she was 70! My sort of woman. In the evening there was a TADS meeting. Hooray! Our next play has all been cast, and is going ahead at full speed. I won’t have much to do with it, except on intensive lines coaching, which I seem to do quite well. I think they are scared of me, and learn their lines out of fear – but, well, it works. But I had a headache, which lasted all the next day…

…which was otherwise quite good fun – a TRA staff day in London, with lots of short interactive sessions, much livelier than usual. On the train I sorted all the 8 days extracts into some sort of order.

And then I started regretting taking time for decorating, because the sheer quntity of the work I have outstanding suddenly came home to me. Thursday was all prep and writeups and painting, so I couldn’t get on with the big jobs – there were lots of bitty things that just had to be done quickly. The Greek lesson went well, though; I felt much more comfortable with it all, although that might have been because the people who have lived in Greece weren’t there.

Friday was painting and phone calls and emails, and a session at the doctors’ surgery. The two ladies both said that they had found their homework really difficult, but they had each done a nice little poem. I’ll go easier on them next week. But it started me thinking – am I reallya  slavedriver? I just think that to enjoy something, you have to do it as well as you can, and that means making an effort. Perhaps my expectations are too high; I don’t know; but in my experience, people live up to the expectations you have of them.

In the evening I went to the Cheltenham LitFest party. I always used to enjoy these – there were people there who I could have a laugh with – but there were only two I knew this time, and it was a bit dull. I did meet Jenny Joseph, though (the woman who wrote “When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple.”). She is an old woman now, and she wasn’t weaaring purple. I felt cheated. She is a lovely person, though.

Saturday was a bit different – a conference about wider aspects of medicine – poetry; trust; a surgeon’s inner life. Most of the speakers were really intereseting, but some seemed just to want to show us how clever they are. And none of them seemed to have the idea that actually, if they trusted patients more, then patients would trust them.

The Son was home briefly, which is always entertaining. My daughter came home, too, but she had left when I got in. However, she phoned from a nearby petrol station, because her car was making a smell and a  funny noise, and would I come and help. Obviously, I am known for my mechanical expertise, so I went to investigate. She had over-filled the oil (having checked it by putting the dipstick in the wrong place), and the noise sounded to me rather like an exhaust problem, so I told her she should be ok to drive home. Then I told her again, because she had been busy eyeing up the good-looking young man in a car behind us. I haven’t heard anything since, so I presume – I hope – my advice was correct.

In the evening was the Cheltenham Allstars slam. This was the thirteenth year running I have been in this event – if you count the years when it was the Allcomers’ slam – and I hadn’t before reached the final. I still haven’t reached the final, although I was pleased to get to the semis, because it was such a strong field of poets. But in my semi-final poem, my mouth went completely dry, and I could hardly speak, so it didn’t go well. Oh well, never mind; it was a good evening for the audience.

And today it’s been more painting and more prep, although I’ve nearly finished that so I’ll be able to get on with some of the big pieces of work, I hope. I do think that preparation is worthwhile, but sometimes you can just have too much of a good thing.

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