Everest

This week has ended with something very special, something I have been waiting for for years – but I’ll come to that later.

The week started with a three-hour phone call – three hours! Ok, we did have a lot to sort out; this was all Artlift stuff, but it was a bit of a marathon. I cleared up some of the stuff left in the garden after my neighbour’s attacks on my shrubs, and went to collect Artlift forms delivered to the wrong place. After a bit of preparation for the Poetry on Loan event on Saturday, I went to see Everest. This has some fantastic filming, but wasn’t completely engaging. It did lead me, though, to the profound realisation that I will never climb Everest. Another dream gone.

On Tuesday I did a lot of work on the Poetry on Loan website, and then had a really good session at Hereford Hospital. My Cirencester writing group in the afternoon went quite well, although we didn’t have so many people this week. I did a bit of prep, and handled emails up to Monday.

On Wednesday I was running a taster session for Artlift for a group in Stroud. They were terrific! I think we might well get some more referrals as a result. I had a long phone call about a possible project with Croome, a National Trust property where I’ve been doing pop-up poetry during the summer. One of the Artlift artists has had to postpone the start of his course, so I phoned all his participants to let them know. More email stuff, and then I went to see Martian – yes, two films in one week! Martian was a terrific movie, probably the best I’ve seen this year.

Thursday. Thursday was National Poetry Day, and I felt a little bit down because nobody had asked me to go anywhere and do anything poetical. However, seeing two squirrels on the lawn made things a lot better – who needs poetry when you’ve got squirrels? I did the writeups for the hospital visit and the Cirencester group, and prepared for this week’s Cirencester session, and did some more on the Poetry on Loan website. Long phone calls from the Ledbury Poetry Festival Director and The Son, and more emails – up to Wednesday! I always seem to be a day behind.

Then I started preparing for Saturday – choosing what to wear and practising. I did some Artlift work, changed my latest play a bit, and went to Ledbury for a little poetry event, with Adam Horovitz, who is a good poet. I did a short slot in the open mic. When I got home I bit the bullet and emailed the runners-up in the PoL poetry competition; not all bad news, because we will use their poems on the front page of our website over the next year.

Hmm – I did quite a lot last week! On Friday I did my weekly accounting, and did Thursday’s emails, which took ages – there were loads of them. I did some shopping, and more practice, and got together everything I needed for Saturday, and then the Son came. I had planned to have a bonfire, but his arrival delayed this, and by the time he left, everything was damp with dew, and I couldn’t get it to light. Huh! A failed bonfire. Grrr. I had a long call from The Brother, and did a  lot of Artlift work.

And at last it was Saturday. I practised for my gig in the afternoon and the slam in the evening, and took time out to admire The Daughter’s engagement ring – she called in with her fiancé.

And then the marathon. I drove to Cheltenham, parked at the station and caught a train to Birmingham. It was the Poetry on Loan postcard poets’ event as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival. I introduced the event and the guest poets (competition winners), did my 10-minute slot, and left, leaving the rest of the event in the capable hands of others. I got the train back to Cheltenham, trying to ignore an awful headache, and drove to the venue for the big Cheltenham Literature Festival poetry slam. This is probably the most important slam in the country (although I’m sure some people would argue with that!). Saturday was my 19th consecutive attempt to win it. I’ve won lots of other slams, but I’ve never even reached the final three at Cheltenham. I had decided to do a serious poem in the first round, which usually means you don’t get through – but I did. And I was top in the semi-final. And I won the final. At last, after all those years. I was really touched, because I had a standing ovation, which I have never ever seen at a slam before – I think they were clapping my persistence – and because so many people came up afterwards and said nice things.

This is such a relief. I love slamming, but it always makes me very, very nervous, and now I don’t have to go through that ever again. But I started wondering, on Sunday, how am I going to get my annual dose of fear and adrenaline? We went out and wandered around Puzzlewood, a strange place in the Forest of Dean, which was very enjoyable, and matched my mood.

But I have climbed my own Everest now, and where do I go from here?

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