Paint and performance

Gosh, where to start? Paint. I have scraped and filled and painted the dormer cheeks at the front of my house. It was only when I was up the ladder painting the dormer window frames recently that I realised what a bad state the dormer cheeks (these are the side walls on the bit that sticks out to form a dormer window) had become. I really hoped for a bit of good weather so I could do them before Christmas and hooray! we had some. It’s hard work moving the big ladder around but not too bad doing the actual painting. This took part of Monday and Tuesday; the rest of Monday was write-ups and prep, as usual, and a trip to the Cheltenham Literature Festival to see a performance of school plays developed following some research I did months and months ago. I’m sure all the kids had a great time, but it would have been great if they had had a bit more time for rehearsal. The parents loved it, of course.

Tuesday was my lovely group in Ross. I came out, all pleased with them, to find a big scrape on the rear offside of my car. Back to the surgery to leave my details; they already knew about it, because someone had seen it happen and taken the number of the car. They couldn’t give me the witness’ details, of course (patient confidentiality), but they would contact her. I went to Gloucester and Tewkesbury on my way home, and it was only in Tewkesbury, as I came back to my car, that I found a note under the wiper, left by the person who had done the damage, giving her phone number. My grumpy mood evaporated; my faith in the essential goodness of humanity was restored. What’s more, the person’s insurance company (Esure) have been exceptionally helpful, and it looks like I will have very little trouble and no expense getting it repaired. Mind you, the person who did it (with her silver Jag) could hardly have disowned responsibility. Not quite as easy as painting dormer cheeks, then, but not too bad.

On Wednesday I did loads of prison prep, and sorted out a spare room for my friend Jackie to sleep in. She’s coming over from New Zealand, and will spend one night with me. I’m really looking forward to it – I’ve known Jackie for years, and although I see her only every couple of years, and we’re both bad at corresponding in between times, it’s always as if we had seen each other just days before. I also cut down some brambles, put my mole-scarer in (ha! take that, you varmints!), wrote a big chunk of Treasure Island, got my car taxed, did a job application, and had a bonfire. It was very good bonfire, and I was pleased to get rid of the unsightly heap of stuff in my garden. Shame, really, that the next day my neighbour came and trimmed some of my shrubs and left a huge heap of trimmings where the bonfire had been – all green, and quite unburnable yet.

Thursday was the prison; weird, as usual, but generally a good day. I now have an editor and a journalist for the prison newsletter, but my production manager has been released. I did quite a lot of practice for my gig on Sunday in the evening.

On Friday I was at the hospital, where I worked with a man who said at the start that any work on a poem would be wasted on him. But he talked to me, and I wrote a poem that turned out to be a love poem for his wife, and when I read it to him he cried a little, and was so touched and pleased he hardly knew what to say. It was so moving; he has a year or two to live, and he cares so deeply about his wife. This is why I do this work. And the surgery in the afternoon was good, too; my participants there get better each week. In the evening I saw The Bloke, who had been away all week on a course, and we worked on the re-edit of the prison radio play. He’s done a terrific job, and it’s nearly finished now.

I was a bit down for a couple of days, worrying about my backlog of work, but I guess somehow it will all get sorted, and Saturday was a lovely day at the Literature Festival. I had loads of magnetic letters and a big magnetic board, and the families who came past took part by writing a line each of a poem. We did five poems altogether – on poetry and what people like; wishes; Hallowe’en; crazy animals; and dreams. Great fun all round, and it didn’t rain.

Today was my last involvement with the LitFest – a half-hour performance on the open stage. This is a little tricky, because you can’t really hear the reactions of the people listening, but apparently it went really well. The Bloke filmed it for me. We’ll need to edit out some mistakes, and then I’ll get it on the website. I have to say I really enjoyed it; I do like performing, even though I get very nervous. It’s much more scary than going up ladders to do the painting, but more satisfying when I can engage with an audience.

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