Out of the woods

It’s been a strange week, with two days spent in the woods and a day spent in bed, ill. I’m ok now, though – out of the woods in more ways than one. So – Monday I was in a wood near Abingdon with the reception classes from the school I’ve been working with. There were loads of kids and some parents; they were looking at tracking and building shelters, and my job was to get them writing poetry. Well, this didn’t work, because there were far more exciting things to do, like look at caterpillars and watch worms and play with sticks. So I reckoned that we would just go for creative activity, and I would ask them to describe things. We pretended to be trees and wondered what they sky would feel like if you could touch it; we though of all the things you could do with sticks and logs; we made drums and beat out a rhythm while we sand nursery rhymes; and we made towers out of sticks. I was home in time to mow the grass, and in the evening we had an excellent rehearsal – it’s all coming together now. Just as well, because we have only three rehearsals left.

I was back in the woods again on Tuesday, this time with the kids I’ve been working with, and my job was to get the parents to write poetry. And they did! We came up with some lovely stuff, and I had some fun watching fire made by rubbing sticks together, and tasting wood sorrel. In the evening we sat round the fire, and I got the kids to read out their parents’ poems. And we played a word game while they were waiting for the food to be ready. This was amazing – even the kids who hadn’t responded much to what I did in class joined in and became really competitive. By the end of the day, though, I was feeling a bit ill again, and when I got home all I did was write up what had been done.

Sure enough, on Wednesday morning I woke up with full-blown cystitis. If you’ve ever had this, you’ll know just how wretched it makes you feel. I managed to see a doctor, though, and got some antibiotics, and went back to bed. By the end of the day I was able to do some prep, and changed my printer cartridge. A quick word about the printer cartridge is due here. In the past I have always had new laser cartridges, which cost a fortune, but this time I thought I would try a recycled one, at less than half the price. I ordered it through t’Internet, and it arrived very quickly, but it didn’t work – half of each page was very faint. So I phoned up to complain. They were very apologetic, and said it happened with about 5% of their cartridges, but they took it very seriously. A replacement cartridge arrived the next day! Why can’t everyone provide service like this? It contrasts with the AA, with whom I am in the middle of a dispute.

I was supposed to run a workshop on Wednesday morning with my local prison but this was completely out of the question. I phoned up to tell them, and they said they had recruited quite a lot of blokes for it; I hate letting people down like this, but it would have been a rubbish workshop if I’d tried to do it, because I felt so bad.

I was all ready to go to the prison on Thursday, and got up at the crack of dawn as usual, and started driving. But within five minutes I knew I couldn’t do it; I still wasn’t well enough. So, back home, back to bed. By the afternoon I was much better, and got a lot done – a play adjudication, some invoices and emails, and tidying and gardening, and prep for my young people’s writing group in Hereford.

On Friday I worked on getting some props ready for the play, and answered all my emails before going to work with my two GP surgery groups. They were great, really throwing themselves into the play we are writing (group 1), and having a go at the strange things I ask people to do when we start writing poetry (group 2).

On Saturday I faffed about, really. The Daughter was home briefly and it was nice to catch up with her news. In the evening we went to see Derren Brown in Birmingham. He really is amazing. I wish I could do all that. And yesterday I painted some chairs that we’ll use for the play, and wrote up all the surgery stuff, and in the evening we went to see Attack the Block.  This is a very simple story stretched out to make a film. It made me laugh, and it made me jump; it was ok.

And now I am feeling perfectly well, and in a minute I’ll be off to the school in Oxford again. No woods. Just a classroom, and meetings, and a session for teachers.

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