This week I have been judged, and found wanting. Apart from that, though, it’s been busy. On Monday I went shopping, and did some practice for the Allstars slam. and revised my new poem yet again, and did loads of prison prep and typing and Poetry on Loan actions…

…which left the emails unanswered, so I handled those on Tuesday, before going to a  playwriting workshop in Cheltenham. Only three people were there, but there should have been more, because it included some useful tips. To the hospital next, to work with a woman who I think really needed someone to talk to. She sent me an email of thanks for her poem, which she said brought tears to her eyes; she’s sent it to everyone she knows so that they can understand how she feels. I typed up the rugby poem, and decided on the  set list for my Saturday gig at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. I had volunteered to judge a written poetry competition, and I did most of the reading for that, and then went to Swindon Poetry Festival to see Being Human,  a dramatisation of poems which are part of the well-known anthology of that name. To be honest, I didn’t really like it much. I’m used to seeing poets perform their own poems, and then there is always a certain vulnerability, which intensifies the experience. This was lacking in this show, which was a bit stagy and artificial – and predictable, too. I think some better direction would have helped. I did lots of practice for the slam, too.

I pay a ridiculous amount for my Internet access; I’m with Orange. I was sent some new terms and conditions, which indicated that I should be paying much less, so I thought I would phone them to inquire about this. After ages hanging on the phone, the answer came – I am in the 16% of the country where Orange cannot sit their equipment, so it costs me £10 more a month than for everyone else. I don’t want to change my ISP, because I worry about the possible disruption this might cause, but I’m afraid Orange have been judged and found wanting.

I answered emails, did some prison prep, sorted out some poems for an RNLI gig coming up, practised, and started getting ready for the new term with a GP surgery group. Strangely, all my old papers, that had been in a  briefcase on the floor of my office, were very damp, which made it much easier to make the decision to throw them away. I went to a Ledbury Poetry Festival board meeting, and later went to see Looper; it was good enough to drive me over the holes in the plot.

Thursday was back in the prison – first time for three weeks. The guys in my group were excellent, as always; the afternoon was spent mostly with a reporter from radio Shropshire, who interviewed the governor, and me, but couldn’t as he had hoped speak to a prisoner. In the evening I wrote up the prison stuff, and finished the competition judging. Fortunately it wasn’t too difficult; two poems were much better than the others, and really I just had to decide which of these two should be first.

On Friday I had to call in at The Roses theatre. I contacted all the people in the GP group later, and did some invoices and slam practice and prison actions and practice for my gig and paid my car tax and did more slam practice, and wrote a testimonial for a friend who is doing an Arts Council funding bid.

Saturday. Ah, Saturday. The Son was home briefly; I did more practice, and prison actions; I did my gig. It really wasn’t much fun. It was in an open book tent, with people milling around all the time and talking (naturally); and the rain started hammering on the roof so I had to shout to be heard at all (no mic). Four people stayed all the way through and said they had enjoyed it, but it was hard work. I went home to try and have a quick snooze – didn’t sleep well the night before – but The Daughter came home briefly, so that didn’t work out.

And the big Allstars slam, the one event I would like to win more than any other, the one I have practised and practised for. I have to confess that this year I thought I had a chance, but I was knocked out in the first round. I came second in my heat, with a good score, but not quite good enough to be the highest-scoring runner up. So that was that; judged and found wanting, hopes dashed for yet another year – this is my 16th consecutive year in this event, and I haven’t ever even reached the final.

Never mind. On Sunday, The Bloke and I went wandering through Berkeley and Sharpness – source material for Poet Laureate poems. Strange places. As happened once before just recently, I woke early in the morning – 2am – with the first lines of the Berkeley poem in my head, and I had to get up and work on them; and while I was there I did the Sharpness poem. I went back to bed, but then had an idea for how a poem about the Literature Festival would work, and sat up in bed to do that. And then the title came for a big new Christmas poem, ready for a slam in Cirencester. Time to have a cup of tea and do some real work. It was after 5 by the time I went to sleep, and I know that later today I will at some point just flake out. But at least when it comes to effort, I’m not found wanting.

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