Out there

I’ve been thinking for some time that I write this blog in a very self-contained way, as if there is no world outside the tiny bubble that is my life. So, from now on, I plan to make a few comments about the world out there, as well as showing the highlights of my own experiences.

In my bubble, this week has been a good one. I had a new group on Monday – a different GP surgery group – which included one older gentleman who left halfway through because he had to go home for his tea. I suggested that perhaps he could have a snack before the sessions, and have tea a little later, but no: he’s a creature of habit, he said. The others all did really well, and said at the end that the two hours had flown by.

I worked in the hospital on Tuesday, and wrote poems with three lovely people, who were very pleased with what we accomplished. In the evening I went to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which was a gentle and enjoyable film; I’ve recommended it to my mother.

On Wednesday evening, I ran short poetry workshops for visual artists. It went really well – they said things like “I never knew words could be so much fun.” The next day one of them emailed me to say that she was having a really bad time at home, and that the session with me had helped give her clarity, and go home in a better frame of mind.

Earlier in the week I spent ages getting entries ready for the Koestler – a competition for arts of all forms for prisoners. On Thursday my prison group presented me with yet more writing, most of it very good indeed. At lunchtime, the prison Writer in Residence steering group meeting went well; the prison are very pleased, it seems with what I’ve been doing. And in the evening, it was great to see my guys stand up and read some of their work to an audience of about 60 people. The boys done good.

I had Friday morning planned, but came across an email with details of a job I would really like to do; the closing date was – oh, 9th March. Friday. So I spent the morning doing the application. The afternoon was taken up by a Poetry on Loan meeting, and it was a delight – despite all the difficulties libraries are facing, everyone was full of ideas for workshops and events that they want to run. Excellent!

I managed to go for an early morning run three times last week, and on Saturday I tidied and cleaned the whole house, which made me feel much better, and caught up with some of the work that should have been done on Friday morning. And yesterday I did some prison prep and some work on the book of poems from the hospital.

Not bad, overall; but outside, some awful things have been happening – of course; something bad is always happening somewhere. And this is what I think; these are only opinions, and I’m always (well, nearly always) willing to be persuaded that I’m wrong:

Burning copies of the Quran… It’s a sign of maturity, in my opinion, to be able to accept an apology for a wrong that has been done, forgive the trespasser, and move on. If adherents of a religion feel so strongly about the burning of their books that they feel they have to kill people in retaliation, that is a sign of immaturity and a lack of strength. I’m sure their god would accept an apology, so why can’t they?

Soldiers being killed in Afghanistan… Of course, the deaths of these soldiers are a great sorrow to their friends and families. But they chose to be soldiers, knowing the risks and dangers, and they died doing the jobs they wanted to do; it’s no more tragic, in my opinion, than the deaths of racing drivers.

Civilians being killed in Afghanistan… This is madness. It’s too early to know the motives of the American soldier who went out and shot 16 people. What he did was obviously wrong, whatever his motive; armed forces have a duty to try to identify people who might do things like this.

Afghanistan is such a difficult thing to talk about; I could go on for ages about the iniquities of the Taliban, and the problems of conscience that face anyone who feels it’s right to take on a totalitarian organisation, but I won’t. Not this week, anyway.

There’s so much going on out there, and all I can do is try, as far as I can, to make tiny changes (and, I hope, improvements) in the lives of the people I work with.

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