Running out

Well, sorting my house out was my (only) New Year’s resolution this year, so – that’s what I’ve been doing. I finished sand-and-cementing the patio, and jolly good it looks too – fortunately, the roofers, who finished everything on one day, let me have some sand and cement because I ran out. There were big gaps between blocks on the patio that swallowed the stuff up. I spread a bit of gravel on the drive too – it’s so nearly finished! – but I ran out of the gravel as well, so I mowed the lawns.

Then it was time to go up on the scaffolding. Fortunately, the roofers have left the scaffolding so I can paint the otherwise unreachable front wall of my house. I had to cut back all the creeper first… and then it was time to stop and do some practice for my gig.

Obviously the first thing to do on Wednesday was to buy more gravel and some exterior filler for the front wall. I used up all the filler and had to go back for more. By now I had realised that this was a running-out kind of week; and I’d run out of month, too, so I did my end-of-month accounting, and prepared for the prison. The Son came home and helped me get the gravel out of the car, and off I went to Bridgnorth for my gig. It was a great evening – part of the Bridgnorth Festival, which until this year has been only music. The organisers were terrific – very clear about what was needed, and obviously good at publicity. The gig was in Costa Coffee, and it was rammed – I couldn’t get a seat! Lots of poets did their stuff; everyone had a great time; and lots of people came up and said how much they had enjoyed my set, which is always nice. And later I wrote a new poem for my lawyers’ gig in October.

Next day was the prison, and wow! I found out that we had won 11 Koestler creative writing awards. The Koestler awards are for prisoners, for all artistic genres. Last year we won 6 (including two golds and a platinum, but we had two exceptional poets then); I was delighted that we got so many this year, and it all goes down well with the governors, too. The guys were amazed, and really pleased.

So – The Daughter wasn’t feeling too well, and her car is out of action, so I took her home, and then went home myself to see how The Son had got on with tidying. He had clearly stolen someone else’s bedroom; I didn’t recognise his room at all. And he’d cleared three and a half bags of rubbish, so well done The Son. We had a bit of fun, and then he left.

I had planned all I have to do quite carefully, and wasn’t feeling at all stressed, but having the scaffolding has put the pressure on a bit – I have to get the front wall done before I run out of good weather and scaffold time. So on Friday morning I was up there again, sanding and painting, before going to a Poetry on Loan meeting in the afternoon. Things are going really well with Poetry on Loan; despite all the problems they are having with cutbacks, the library staff I work with are showing great ingenuity in getting events and workshops running. Good for them, too!

On Saturday The Bloke and I went out to buy various bits and pieces for my house – new lights, a new blind for my office (the old one had stopped working), light switches…I did some work on the book of prisoners’ poems, and in the evening went to the Gloucestershire Drama Association AGM. I had to go, both to represent my drama society, and also to announce the full-length play awards. These naturally made some people very pleased, but I had the feeling that at least a few people there had expected to win something and hadn’t, and really didn’t like me very much. But generally it all went well; in a couple of weeks I’ll start going to see next year’s plays, only now I’ll be doing it on my own. My lovely other adjudicator, Mel, can’t do it because of pressure of work. Shame! She’s been a god companion, and very knowledgeable, too.

On Sunday, we thought we’d go out and have some fun… but I knew I would just feel guilty and more pressured, so instead we spent the day doing stuff to my house. The Bloke rigged up a ladder on top of the scaffold so I could reach the highest bits of the wall, and I did more filling, while he busied himself with things electrical. He mended my blind! – so the new one can go back to the shop. And he pumped up the tyres of my little motorbike, and to our amazement, got it started. The poor things has been left standing for two years, but it was running beautifully. If I can get it MOT’d, I should get much more when I sell it; and this will, I hope, help me not run out of money. Times is hard for a jobbing writer. Perhaps I should just become a decorator instead.

In the evening we saw Cowboys and Aliens (very, very silly, but fun. I’ve since read that it is an allegory about bankers – oh, really?), and had a meal out. We had to run out of the cinema, and then from the restaurant, because it was raining – a fitting end to the week.


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