Philosophy for elephants

One of my favourite quotes comes from the philosopher A.C. Grayling. He claims to have heard two women talking on a bus. One of them was in distress, and the other was comforting her by saying, “Be philosophical about it. Don’t give it another thought.” In fact, I liked this so much I used it at the heart of the first play what I wrote (Morecambe and Wise reference there, in case you are one of my younger readers).

This week has been about being philosophical, in a way, but then you could argue that all weeks are like that. You can argue about anything, on a philosophy course. The second day of my course was on Tuesday, and it was definitely worth attending. Now I’m itching to get my hands on a class of kids to try it all out on.

In the evening The Bloke and I went to see Water for Elephants, which was a good movie but not exceptional (except for the elephant, which was very freckled, good at tricks, and apparently very philosophical).

On Wednesday I did loads of prep – for the prison, a meeting on Thursday, the doctors’ surgery group, the school trips this coming week, and so on; and I went to the bank and did some gardening and answered emails. In the evening I attended a Ledbury Poetry Festival committee meeting. The programme is now nearly ready to be sent out, and it’s all steam ahead with more poets, I think, than we have ever had before.

Thursday was the prison. I had a real lesson in not judging people by their appearances. I was a little apprehensive, because I knew my group would have new members, and I didn’t know who they would be. Now, there is a guy I’ve seen around the prison with some very striking, not to say rather scary, tattoos on his forehead. I knew he was interested in joining the group, and I was really hoping he wouldn’t be included… but he was. He was thoughtful, considerate, enthusiastic, eloquent – in short, an all-round joy as a group member. The other new ones were great too, so it was a really good session. I managed to sort out some printing and see some people one-to-one and get the next issue of the newsletter started, so this was an excellent day…

…but it hadn’t finished – I had to drive off for a meeting about a poetry project I’ll be working on with a trainee poet, two trainee teachers, two real teachers and two classes of kids in different schools. One group is low ability year 3s, and the other is gifted and talented years 5 and 6, so quite a range there. The meeting went on longer than expected, and we were locked in the college where we had met; when we found someone to let us out I didn’t want to delay everyone by saying that I really needed the loo so I held on. I should have known better.

Friday was fine – emails and writeups in the morning, and I planted my hanging baskets. I know this isn’t really necessary, and perhaps I shouldn’t have done it when I’m so busy, but the plants had been waiting, and my baskets bring me a little bit of joy for months, so I thought it was worth an hour. I worked a bit on the ending of my play, which wasn’t right at the last rehearsal; I’m much happier with it now. In the afternoon I had my GP surgery group, who had reassembled full of enthusiasm to write a play. We had a good start.

And in the evening it was off to see a play to be adjudicated. I hadn’t expected to enjoy this particular play but in fact it was quite charming, and left me in a fit state to do the ironing.

Yesterday I prepared for the workshop I’m doing in a different prison on Wednesday, and then went off to help The Bloke with his garden – he’s helped me a lot with mine, so it seemed only fair. But I got very thirsty, and, oh dear, I really ought to know better; I woke this morning with cystitis. Since then I’ve drunk gallons and hit the cystitis medicine, and I think I may have caught it in time. I haven’t got time to be ill!

Still, if I am, I must just put up with it. No point worrying. I’ll be like the elephant, and be philosophical, if I can.

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