Animal attack

What have I done to upset wildlife? I keep plenty of weeds in my garden for the benefit of the fauna, but do they show any gratitude?

I was clearing the garden a bit on Monday when I was stung on the wrist by a bee. Poor bee; at least I didn’t die from it. But I had forgotten how much bee stings hurt, and how long they go on being irritated. However, I soldiered on bravely, and proofread a poster for Poetry on Loan, and prepared for my Cirencester group, and worked on some Artlift statistics and a brief for an artists’ meeting facilitator; I answered all the Artlift emails, and sent photos of the proposed work on my house to the planning people. I picked up some windfall pears and mowed the big lawn and chopped some branches off the hazelnut trees that the squirrels have planted… Another example of animal attack! One day I have a bit of lawn, and the next year it has become a hazel tree grove. I finished the prep for my day at a prison, and sorted out the shortlist for the Poetry on Loan competition; cooked and froze some pears, and wrote a poem. I could never complain about not having enough to do.

On Tuesday I gave a talk about Artlift to a group of health trainers. There was no point going home before I had to be in Cirencester, so I went for a swim, which was lovely, and soothed my poor stung arm. My Cirencester group in the afternoon did well, although several of them weren’t there; I tried to phone them afterwards but couldn’t get through to most of them. One of them won’t be coming any more because her bus timetable has changed, which is a real shame. In the evening I saw Café society. Generally I like Woody Allen films because they have a lot of words in, but really I think he has totally lost touch with how real people speak. It was an enjoyable film, though.

I managed a bit more patio clearing on Wednesday, and Friday, although it’s still not finished – grrr. Most of the rest of the day was writeups and emails; I caught up to Sunday.

On Thursday I had to get up really early to get to the prison I was working in. I had forgotten how much I enjoy working in prisons. In the morning I was with a group of entry-level English learners, and in the afternoon with a poetry group; the project is called “Celebrating Shakespeare”, so both sessions were loosely based on Shakespeare. It was amazing! The morning group wrote a couple of poems together, and then each one of them wrote a love poem. The teacher asked them to write them out neatly, but one guy’s poem was neat already, so I asked him to read through a speech (Prospero) ready to read it to the group. And the man next to him asked if he could do one too. Wow! He actually asked if he could read a Shakespeare speech aloud. I gave him a speech from Macbeth, so we ended the session hearing about dusty death, in a strongly Scouse accent, and being told by L from Bradford that our little lives are rounded by a sleep. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately the route home was rather less wonderful; an accident had closed the motorway, so I missed my planned Pilates session. But in the evening I saw Hell or high water, which is just as good as all the critics have said.

On Friday I finally got up-to-date with the emails, and put some mouse poison in the loft. The mice have been keeping me awake at night, and though I have a lot of sympathy with them, I felt I really had to fight back. I did my usual weekly accounts, and a lot of Artlift work.

Saturday was my first session this year with my group of young writers in Pershore. It started well, but then I asked them to decide on a theme for the next 9 sessions. We had 8 possibilities, but when it came to a vote, it was clear that they were never going to agree. “Why don’t you just tell us what we’re doing?” one of them said. “Because I like to be democratic; I want you to feel that you’ve had a say in it.” “But then we can’t agree, and it all goes wrong.” Hmm. This is how dictators get to power. Anyway, I’m going to find a way to incorporate everything they want (from geology to Shakespeare, including big philosophical issues) in my planning for the sessions.

In the afternoon The Bloke and I went to an locomotive manufacturer’s open day. They weren’t actually wearing anoraks, but unless you are deeply involved in flanges, it couldn’t be described as exciting. Still, approached in the right way it was a mildly amusing afternoon.

And on Sunday we went to the West Midlands Safari Park. We saw painted dog puppies being fed, a baby rhino right by the car, and a white tiger trying to pounce on a camel (a fence got in the way). I held my hand through the car window to feed a large antelope-type animal – but it put its head through the window to get hold of the brightly-coloured map spread out on my lap, and bit me on the thigh – no skin broken, just a bruise, but this still counts as an animal attack. It was a lovely afternoon, though, even if the lorikeet that had a taken a fancy to grooming The Bloke’s head decided to leave its rather messy mark all over him.

And every day this week, I have written a new poem. Animal attacks feature strongly.


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