Brenda Read-Brown

Gloucestershire Poet Laureate, 2012-2013

The end

It’s the end of the year, and time to take stock of what I’ve been up to. I’ve had a lovely Christmas, thank you for asking, with The Son, The Daughter and The Son-in-Law; quiet, but good fun, with Playdoh modelling one of the highlights. As always, I felt bereft when they all went, and worse when I realised that the bad cold I developed meant that I couldn’t go to the party I’d been invited to on Friday. Never mind; all better now.

And now it’s time to do a round up of 2019.

It’s been an interesting year for me. I’ve:

  • performed at 13 gigs (mostly topping the bill);
  • written 165 poems, not counting the ones I write for other people;
  • directed Wyrd Sisters, with huge financial success for TADS – and some dramatic success, too;
  • started work on my third poetry collection (although I’m a long way off having it ready for publication);
  • had 3 poems accepted for publication in anthologies;
  • finished a new one-act play, which will be presented one day;
  • worked with an Artlift group in Cheltenham; a group of people suffering with chronic pain, in Hereford; two other writers’ groups; in a prison; in a school in Birmingham; and with people on two cruises;
  • done two instant poetry gigs;
  • worked for a day as a film extra;
  • got two years’ funding for Poetry on Loan, and written a big report for our last two years’ work;
  • produced a book of poems written during my work at Cheltenham Hospital, and another for my Artlift group;
  • handed over the Gloucestershire Poet Laureateship;
  • painted the front of my house;
  • done some gardening (but never enough);
  • finished makeovers of two rooms in my house, with a third just started;
  • run a lot;
  • seen 28 films in the cinema;
  • seen a Cirque du Soleil show, segwayed in Norway, snorkelled in the Red Sea, learned to make sushi, abseiled from the Brighton Eye, zip wired in a quarry, had a hernia operation, worn an ankle support nearly all year (almost better now), had a memorable ride on an observation wheel, seen Taiko drummers and the Lightning Seeds, been to the Bear Grylls adventure place, and visited the Fairford show, the RAF Cosford museum, and the Stanway fountain.

 

I’ve had three terrific holidays – Egypt, and two cruises to the Fjords.

But my cousin committed suicide, an old friend died, and my last remaining aunt left us.

I’m getting on with sorting my house out, although it’s a long, slow process – and now I need to sort myself out too.

And it’s time to finish the blog. I started writing my blog, in 2009, to show potential employers the range of things I was working on, but now that need has passed. I’ve never had many readers, and to be honest I don’t think my life is worth reading about – certainly not as much as many other people’s lives. So, from now on, I’ll just post occasionally when I feel have something special I want to say.

Thank you to my loyal reader! Have a wonderful 2020.

The end.

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Clearing the way

This week my next-door neighbour has been cutting back some of my trees. I think the lesson to be learned from this is: never lend a man a chainsaw. To be honest, though, he’s done a good job; I just have a huge pile of branches to clear away now, but it’s easier for The Daughter to get her car into the drive.

I’ve done my last session for the year at the hospital. It was a really good session; a man said he’d told me things he’d never told anyone before, and a woman said that talking to me had buoyed her up when she was feeling down. I wrote my annual report on the hospital work, and had some very nice comments from the people who fund it. I think I’ll be doing some extra sessions next year…

…which is very good, because I don’t have much work now – just Poetry on Loan and the hospital stuff, with a few bits and pieces here and there. I miss having a regular writing group to work with, but I guess that’s just the way of things – and it does leave me time to carry on clearing a way through all the junk in my house.

I have written a couple of poems, which has reminded me that it’s really time I put together my third collection. This is far more difficult than clearing either the garden or the house, though. When I look at my poems, I think either that nearly all of them deserve a place in the collection, or that none does. I think I’ll have to find a theme for the collection and see what fits round that.

And apart from that, it’s all been getting ready for Christmas. I’ve iced cakes and wrapped presents, same as everyone else, and made chocolate mice, which I guess isn’t like everyone else, but is still very important.

And I’ve had what I think is my biggest triumph of the year. My really Heath Robinson repair to my leaky roof seems to have worked! No water came through despite the heavy rain. After I’d put in the foil trays and Gorilla tape (not quite Blu-Tak, but not much more advanced) I talked it through with my brother, who used to have a building firm, and he agreed that the principle behind it is sound, and – well, it’s worked. And it’s a bit cheaper than putting in a whole new roof at a steeper angle, which is what the roofer recommended. Hooray! Now I can mend the hole in the ceiling and do some painting and decorating.

So many things we do depend on doing something else first – clearing the way – and sometimes the list of tasks seems endless. But, as they say in Frozen 2, you just have to keep doing the next right thing. Yeah, well, it’s Christmas, and I’m allowed a cliché or two!

Happy Christmas to my reader; I hope you have an exciting and yet peaceful time.

 

 

 

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Au revoir, arrivederci, etc.

It’s been a sad week for those of us who wanted to remain in the EU, but now I guess we just have to give up. I heard the exit poll while on location for filming, which sounds grand but wasn’t – I was a supporting artist, or extra, and it involved a lot of standing around in the cold. It was interesting to see how it all works, though, and I met some lovely people. I’m not going to tell anyone what the film is because I look awful!

Apart from that, on Monday I had a lovely time writing poems for people in John Lewis in Birmingham, with Spoz as my delightful companion. This was a Poetry on Loan gig; sometimes I’m lucky enough for people to ask me to do some actual delivery, as well as making it all work behind the scenes, and this was one of those occasions. Everyone was really pleased with their poems, and we didn’t really stop for over two hours.

Otherwise – emails (of course), PoL work, getting a Christmas tree, putting in a temporary repair for a leaky loft, writing poems… just the usual stuff. It’s been a quiet week, as well as a sad one. Goodbye, Europe; we’ll miss you.

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More important things

There are far too many important things going on in the world for you to want to know about me.

I’ve got some work as a film extra, and this week I had a fitting for my costume; I had a good session at the hospital and wrote some new poems; I went to the funeral of my last remaining aunt, took my cat to the vet, attended and wrote the minutes for a TADS meeting, and sold some stuff on eBay. Today I wrote instant poems for people in John Lewis in Birmingham, and had a meeting to plan the next Poetry on Loan training session.

And I sent in my postal vote, which is much more important than all of those things. Forget about everyday trivia – just decide what’s important, and vote.

That is all.

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Walking it off

I’m not going to go into details about last week, because basically, I couldn’t do all that much following my operation. What I could do was desk work, which means mostly Poetry on Loan stuff, and I did a lot of that. I could write poems too, and I did quite a bit of that; and I put a lot of things on eBay, and did some life admin that’s been hanging around (hooray! my radiator is fixed!), and did my end-of-month accounting.

And I walked. I wasn’t allowed to run, so I spent about two hours each day walking, during which I found a good new route for my daily run, and saw some splendid views of the surrounding countryside – in sunshine and rain and through mist.

But now I’m all better. I’ve had a couple of runs and nothing seems to have gone wrong; I’ve done a bit of gardening, and I’m driving again.

So, this week, normal service will be resumed. And I haven’t even got a scar.

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Out of operation

Not much to write this week! The first few days were taken up with preparations for my operation. Doing a big shop was sensible, so that I wouldn’t have any heavy lifting to do afterwards, but I also felt compelled to clean the entire house, and start clearing my office.

The operation itself went really smoothly. In at 8; first on the list; out of anaesthetic before 12; home by 2. No scar! It’s been a bit sore, but a flea bite compared to when I broke my heel, and the paracetamol and ibuprofen are keeping the pain under control.

Since then I’ve caught up with all my emails, done quite a bit of work on the Poetry on Loan finances, backed up my computer files and written four poems. And I’ve been out for walks; long, long walks, because I’m not allowed to run yet and walking seems to be good for me.

The most frustrating thing is that I’m also not allowed to drive. I’m not allowed to do anything physical. I’ve got hardly any work to do, and I’ll get that finished today. Is this what retirement would be like? Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the aimlessness; I need a target, something to work towards. I was hoping to put on a one-act play in the spring, but even that’s fallen through now.

Enough wallowing! I’ll just have to find a way of doing things – like clearing my office – that don’t involve lifting or stretching. I’m not really out of operation; not yet.

 

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Flooded

We had floods this week, but then we often do where I live. I’ve felt a bit flooded too, although workwise it’s just been an ordinary week.

On Monday I caught up with emails, and went to see my friend Jonathan Davidson, who was talking in Ledbury about his new book. Very good session on Tuesday at the hospital; the people I meet there are so lovely, and so uplifting, but sometimes it makes me feel sad. I did the writeup, and in the evening went to a glass-fusing class. This was fun and interesting, and the results aren’t anywhere near as bad as I expected. I might even hang them up somewhere.

Wednesday and Thursday were emails, Poetry on Loan stuff, and a car service. A big one. Ouch. And of course the floods – but these subsided quite quickly.

By Saturday I was completely up-to-date with all my emails, and I’ve started clearing my office. So far I’ve done half of the top of the desk, but then I knew it would take a long time. I’ve written several poems this week, all of them, I think, better than the ones I found on my desk waiting to be typed up.

On Saturday I got some stuff down from the loft and managed to clear away two bags full to go to the charity shop, and another three bags that I’ll try to sell on eBay. And I finished my attack on the rampant bramble. I know it will grow back, but some things never go away, and it made me feel better to be out in the garden. In the evening there was more PoL stuff to do.

On Sunday The Son popped in for a while, which was fun, and The Daughter held the ladder for me while I went up in another loft (I have four) to investigate the leak that has made a hole in the ceiling. More floods. I can’t fix the leak properly, but I have a plan to subvert it

And now I’m cleaning the whole house. Work is quieter at the moment – deliberately, because I’m having a little operation on Thursday and what I do will be limited for a while. Next week’s blog will be even less interesting than this one – although several new projects are just bubbling up. I hope they become proper streams and rivers, although preferably not floods.

 

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London calling

I love going to London; it still gives me a buzz. Even a trip on the underground fills me with wonder that it all works – although someone I know who lives in London reminded me that quite often it doesn’t. But still.

Monday was mostly prep and emails, and a continuation of my attack on the rampant bramble. I know it will win, but I have to try. I went to a TADS meeting in the evening.

On Tuesday I had to see the doctor, but he was very reassuring and the cause for concern no longer worries me, so that was good. It was a bit of a medical day all round – next thing was a trip to my dentist, which is always good fun, and in the afternoon I had a great session at the hospital with an amazing woman. I wrote a poem in the evening.

On Wednesday I did the hospital writeup, and loads of shopping. I seem to be doing a lot of shopping at the moment; must be a bit disorganised. And on Thursday I went to London! I spent a bit of time shopping (again) in the afternoon, revisiting the places I knew well when I used to live in London. They have all changed beyond recognition, but that’s hardly surprising, because I last lived there in 1973. In the evening I went to a Lightning Seeds gig in the London Palladium, somewhere I’d never been before. The Son is a great Lightning Seeds fan, and I quite often go to gigs with him – although this time, he was with The Daughter-in-Law and they had VIP seats, so I wasn’t actually with him. It was an excellent gig.

All this meant that on Friday I had loads of emails to catch up on, and lots of Poetry on Loan work to do, and the TADS minutes to write, and that all continued into Saturday – but I also managed to clear two big bags of stuff from one of my lofts.

And on Sunday – I went all the way to Rye, to scatter my cousin’s ashes. Seventeen people were there, friends and relations, and it was good to meet everyone again. I had written a little poem for the occasion, and it seemed to go down well.

But I’m a bit tired today. This morning I worked with my lovely Hereford group, who do so well to keep meeting and writing, and had a phone call about an exciting new project…and now here we are, with another week, and no exciting trips lined up…I’ll just have to find another reason to go back to London soon.

 

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One down…

According to my diary, I don’t seem to have done much this week. I had a really good session at the hospital, did my end-of-month accounting, covered quite a bit of Poetry on Loan work, wrote two poems and got completely up-to-date with emails and mail. And I’ve done a lot of bramble clearing, which has resulted in many scratches (despite the protective clothing) and even more midge bites. I’ve still go a lot to do on that.

But I have completely cleared one room. The floor is visible; everything is neatly put away; all the drawers and cupboards close – it looks like a proper room now, and I feel much better for having done it.

The only problem is that now I want to do all the other rooms. One down…

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Cleansing

Well, I’m not cleansed yet – that’s going to take much more than a week. But I’ve made a start. On Monday I wrote two poems, did lots of Poetry on Loan work, finished cutting down the butterfly plant and started clearing stuff. In the evening I went to a TADS workshop, although I didn’t feel too good, and got up-to-date with the emails.

I had an amazing session at the hospital on Tuesday; it’s days like that that really make me feel that my work is worthwhile. I tried to mow the back lawn, but the grass was long and wet and kept sticking in the mower pipe; it took ages, and I had to have the cut at the highest setting, so I’m going to have another go today. Note to my reader: never live in a house with a garden that is too big for you to manage. I wrote up the hospital stuff and did some final prep for a prison session…

…which was on Wednesday – all day in a prison in Shropshire. We had small groups of varying abilities, but they all wrote something, and I think they all enjoyed it. In the evening I caught up with emails and typed up all the pieces written.

On Thursday I did lots of clearing, and in the afternoon went to an Artlift team meeting in Gloucester. It’s always good to meet the other Artlift artists, but this was a business meeting and we didn’t get time to chat.

Friday? My weekly finances, and yes, more clearing. Bear in mind that this is just one room, and so far I’ve done about two-thirds of it; after that, I still have four more rooms in a similar state of chaos. And then I can start the painting and decorating.

Over the weekend I did yet more clearing, and some Poetry on Loan work, and wrote another poem (quite pleased with this one), and fought a brave battle against the rampant bramble. That’s about half done now, but I had to stop because the garden waste bin was full. And I made my Christmas cakes, and took a load of stuff to the tip.

But that’s enough of my rampant rambling; back to the cleansing process. I know I’ll feel good when it’s done…

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