What do we mean by niceness? It was a question I was asked this week; this surprised me, because I assumed that everyone had the same understanding of the word. I had said that my team for a big team slam yesterday might not win, but they would be the nicest team. What I meant by this was that they would all arrive on time and properly prepared, and that they would show respect to the other poets and to the audience – and that they were all people I would happily spend an evening with. I guess, then, that there are two parts to niceness – one part is basically good manners, and the other is whether people are good company. They don’t have to be the life and soul, but they need to be interesting and positive. At least, they do for me; I don’t want to spend a lot of time with people who are negative and cynical.
I’ll come back to the slam later. Monday was a bit disappointing. I did some prison prep, and then thought I would quickly brush off some loose paint on a part of the outside of my house that had got damp because of a constantly-running overflow pipe, which has now been mended. Splash a bit of black paint on, and job done, I thought. But of course under the flaky bits there was rot, and crumbling mortar, so it turned into a big job, with digging out and filling before I could do the splashy paint bit which is what I really enjoy. I managed another job application and some prep for the GP surgery group, and answered some emails, and then it was time to go to The Bloke’s house for a meal with him and his parents.
On Tuesday, after a trip to the dentist, I went to the hospital and worked with two great people; it’s always so uplifting, this. I finished filling the wall, and in the evening saw The Ides of March. It was well-written and acted, but was a deeply cynical movie that was the opposite of uplifting.
More emails on Wednesday, and some prep for the afternoon, which was the big evaluation event for the ArtLift project that I have been working with for three years – this is what runs my GP surgery group. It’s been a great project, putting artists of various genres in GPs’ surgeries, and the statistics show that it works. People feel better when they have worked with an artist, and this is a lasting effect; what’s more, they tend to go their doctors less often afterwards, so it actually saves money for the NHS. I took one of my participants with me; it seems obvious that it’s important that participants have a voice in these things, but their views are sometimes overlooked among the statistics. And she’s a nice lady! In the evening we had a production meeting for TADS’ next big production, and then I wrote up the hospital stuff.
Brilliant day in the prison on Thursday; the writers in my group just go from strength to strength. There was a little problem with what two new guys had written, and it was nice to be trusted by the officers to handle this myself.
In the evening I had a long phone call from The Daughter, who starts a new job today and was a little nervous, and another one from – a new character here – The Brother. I finally got round to writing up the prison stuff. I also replied to a long string of correspondence on The Son’s Facebook, which resulted in one of his friends saying that I was a legend! Gosh! I feel very proud.
On Friday I had a long call from The Son, who has injured his arm, answered emails, painted the front wall (hooray! It doesn’t look diseased any more), planned some training I’ll be doing later in the month, and did some practice for the slam. GP surgery group in the afternoon, and a bit of Christmas present shopping, which was fun. Then writeups, accounts, emails, ironing, typing – and a mouse in the kitchen!
Saturday was a day off, with a bit of shopping, and getting money back for a camera that didn’t work. It was a shame, this. Last November I bought an underwater camera for The Bloke as a Christmas present. It filled with water the first time he used it, and wouldn’t work at all after that. The manufacturers say the warranty doesn’t hold once you have opened the case – although you have to open the case to get the batteries in! I really didn’t want to make the shop pay for this – we know the people who run it, and we’re nice enough not to want to give them difficulties – but the fact is that they are responsible, and they really need to know if they are selling stuff that’s not fit for purpose. Anyway, it was all ok.
And on Sunday, there was the big team slam in Gloucester – six teams of four poets, as part of a an all-day performance event, and well done to the organisers for doing all this. It went ok, although some of the audience members were really rude and talked while the poets were performing. And my team won. Emma Purshouse, Fergus McGonigal, Jonny Fluffypunk and me. This was a very pleasing triumph, because, as I still believe, we were the nicest team. We sat together and supported each other. It was especially pleasing for me, because the luck of the draw meant that I did the last poem, which ends with the line, “Inside every one of us there beats a poet’s heart”. Now, that’s nice.