An extra hour

Phew! I knew it would be a busy week, and there are still six hours or more to work in. Of course, the weekend when the clocks are turned back is always good. I’ve often said that if I had an extra hour in every day and an extra day in every week, life would be a breeze.

On Monday I went to a one of the regular meetings of the people involved in ArtLift. ArtLift is a great project; it’s through ArtLift that I work with patients in a local doctor’s surgery. The idea behind it is that involvement in art, in any form, can have great benefits for those who are sometimes known as “the worried well” – people with anxiety or depression, grief or eating disorders. So, why are the meetings boring? I think the main reason is the apparent need for many people in the arts world for things to be organic, i.e. unplanned. With a bit more forethought, it could have been done so much more quickly, with no loss; we would have had more time to chat to each other and exchange ideas.

At one point I became quite angry. We were shown pictures of canisters that had been exposed to water and corroded in strange, multicoloured ways, and asked to guess what they were. They were now an art installation. They turned out to be the tins holding the unclaimed cremated remains of people who had lived in a mental institution. A frisson of prurient horror went round the room. I thought that the whole thing was exploitative. “It shows how beautiful they were when they lived,” someone said, but it doesn’t, to my mind; the colours were accidental; the people were beautiful anyway. It felt to me as if the suffering of these people had been turned into a peepshow for people to gawp at; called art and used by someone as a way of making some money. Personally I would have preferred it if the remains had been buried somewhere, with a plaque giving a list of their names. This probably sounds a bit pompous, but I think that putting these things on display takes away the dignity of the people concerned, who were in no position to give or withhold their permission. And yes, I know they are just ashes, dust; but all the more reason for letting them become part of nature again and the normal cycle of things.

Anyway. I’ll come down off my hobby-horse. It’s not very comfortable up there. Just to round the day off perfectly I drove to Corby. Great place. Corby. If you like that sort of thing. But I was given an upgrade in my hotel, and slept in a bed big enough for about 6. On my own.

The next day was spent training front line library staff. I’ve mentioned this course before in my blog; it’s great fun but quite intensive, especially when I run it twice in one day, as I did on Tuesday. But the people were enthusiastic and lovely, so it was a good day – and home to more work: prison prep and an agenda for a meeting.

My prison writers have won more prizes! First and second place in a competition for a poem on the theme of peace. I got loads done on the newsletter, which is now nearly ready to go to print. We’re just waiting for a piece from the Imam, and a photograph, which is stored on a digital camera, locked in a filing cupboard of the office of someone who is away for three weeks. I’m tempted to find someone who could break in; shouldn’t be difficult, in a prison… no, not really.

And home to emails. Naturally. These took most of Thursday to sort out, in between a car service and a session in the hospital.

And on Friday I went to the wonderfully-titled West Midlands Literature Activists’ meeting, in Birmingham. We were very active, and I managed to catch up with a couple of people I needed to see before dashing back to the surgery. My ladies were wonderful! To see such keenness from people who are not in their early years, and have never written anything – it’s a joy.

I suppose I’ll have to mention Nick Griffin. I was disappointed that among the activists there were several who would not have let him speak. Their view seems to be that there should be no censorship, as long as they agree with the views expressed. Surely this can’t be right for people who care about freedom of expression? God knows I don’t want to hear what he says, and I didn’t watch the programme, but I think it’s so condescending of people to think that they know better; that “ordinary people” are not capable of making up their own minds without being protected from nastiness. Oh dear. Two hobby-horses in one blog.

Lots of writing up on Friday evening, and prep for Saturday – the seaside again! This time I was in Lyme Regis, running a workshop to help people prepare stories for the BBC My Story competition. It was a beautiful day, and the sea looked great. If I had had a little more time I would have been in the wetsuit and swimming.

And I came home to a lovely bouquet of flowers from my manager at The Reading Agency, just to thank me for my work. People can be so nice.

It’s Sunday today. Obviously. I wonder what weekends are like? I used to know, but I can’t remember any more. That extra hour has been swallowed up by prep for meetings and the prison and a big event on Tuesday night, and I still have loads to do. More hours, please.

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