David Bowie has died. That’s the leading item on the news. Meanwhile people under siege are dying of starvation, and that is the second item. Really? Bowie was a musical leader, and I thought a terrific actor. He was also a very heavy smoker. Can you imagine him living to be elderly and decrepit? Really? That’s all I’ll say about that, I think, before people complain. I don’t have my own priorities right, so I don’t know how I can expect other people to adjust theirs.

Back to the normalities of my week – although it wasn’t completely normal. For a start, on Monday we had the first rehearsal of my new play, Rocks off, and it was the best first rehearsal I have ever had. My actors are excellent; they’ve caught the ideas behind the play straight away. Apart from that I answered emails and went to look at cars.

Tuesday was normal; I had my first stint at Cheltenham hospital this year, which went really well. My goodness, these people! I have inspiration every week from the people I meet in the hospitals. I packed and drove over to Humberside to visit my mother, who was quite perky. In the evening I wrote up the hospital stuff.

The next day I started clearing her house in Barton, with The Brother and his wife, ready for its sale – a sale which fell through later that day. Some more people looked at the house the very next day, and now the sale is back on again – a bit less than we were asking, but still quite lucky. I spent quite a bit of time with my mother and had a good drive home, where 86 new emails were awaiting me. Sigh. And I took the Christmas decorations down. It all looks so dull when this has been done. I don’t think of myself as a glittery person, but just for a few weeks of the year I enjoy a bit of tinsel and sparkle and pretty lights.

On Wednesday I worked at Hereford hospital – a good morning again – and did some practice for the slam at the weekend. I spent ages working on Artlift statistics, and in the evening saw The Danish girl. I think we were meant to empathise with the main character – a transgender person, with a great performance by Eddie Redmayne – but in fact she seemed so selfish that I was quite glad that she died at the end. Does that sound harsh? I have known a couple of transgender people, and can only imagine the torment of their lives, but in this particular case the character seemed oblivious to the pain for her wife, and it was difficult to be sympathetic. Some great filming, though.

Busy day on Friday – my annual run-in with the AA, who put the price up ridiculously every year and then give me a discount when I phone them; some men checking my new windows and doors; prep for my weekend trip; weekly accounts; more time on the Artlift stats; prep for my Cirencester group’s new term; the Hereford hospital writeup. I was behind with the emails, though – I didn’t get past Wednesday’s. But I did have long calls from The Son and The Daughter.

At the weekend I had a bit of an adventure. I was in the Hammer and Tongue national slam final in the Albert Hall – not the actual big hall but a room upstairs, but still. I am lucky enough to have a cousin who lives in Hammersmith, so I drove there (seeing a deer on the way, which is always a lovely thing) and left my car and caught the bus to the AH (as my grandfather always used to call it). This was the first time in 40 years that I have caught a bus in London, but it was probably the easiest bus journey ever.

So, I was in the AH from 2:30 until 10, listening to poetry. Well, I say poetry; a lot of it was actually comic monologues to my mind, but there were a couple of poems that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and that’s a rare and wonderful thing. I was knocked out in the first round. It was ok; I did the poem well enough, and lots of people came up afterwards and said how much they had liked it and that they thought I should have got through, but obviously it just wasn’t what the judges wanted, so that was that. I made myself useful afterwards by being a judge. It’s more difficult, this, with Hammer & Tongue slams than with others where I have been a judge. You have to give the scores immediately and publicly, and the audience is encouraged to boo judges who give low scores, which means that score creep is far more likely. Also, the hosts make comments about the poets while the judges are thinking about their scores, which again seems slightly odd. However, it does give an air of immediacy. It was a bit of a poetry marathon, but I can honestly say that I listened to every poem, which I don’t always do in slams, and the Hammer and Tongue organisers deserve huge credit for managing such a big event, with more than 50 poets.

And it was lovely to spend a bit of time with my cousin and her family. I came back on Sunday, and went to look at some more cars. There was a Jag I rather liked, but, well – really? I don’t think so.


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