…and there’s a lot of water under the bridge, but most recently I have been heavily involved in the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival. I think it’s fair to observe that the word ‘poetry’ does not attract the same mass audience as, say, the words ‘celebrity’ or ‘gin’, but that does not detract from the quality of the events, and I made sure to attend as many as I could.
This year I got over my fear of poetry workshops and joined in. I had good days and bad days, and one of the good days coincided with an event led by three successful and delightful poets, Sarah Salway, Sian Thomas and Jill Munro. They unblocked my block, and now that I have had some time to go back and rework my scribblings, I have what might be a finished poem. I hope it doesn’t matter, but here’s how it worked: the title/theme and the first few words were supplied as a prompt, then we started writing. After that, some key words were thrown in at random and had to be incorporated into the poem as we wrote. Can you guess which were the prompt words?
Mismatched China in a Castle Tea Room
It is said that we become our mothers, with age. Accepting this, we find an open gate to Grandma’s realm. A Sunday tea where plate and cup and saucer match, each modest sandwich cut to triangles, linen pressed. She would have noted, with an eyebrow raised, today’s display of china disarrayed in strict accordance with the modern taste. Her Jasperware attracts dust on my shelf beside her snakeskin purse and button tin, my house a fairy tale recycling bin of objects I would not choose for myself. I guard this hoard in honour of my kin. While I draw breath, no wolf will blow it in.
Has it really been over two months since I last posted a blog? How lax of me! That said I have been posting HEAPS of stuff on the Voices website as well as all the stuff for the Tunbridge Wells Poetry Festival etc., so not so much lax as just busy elsewhere.
Any-old-hoo, enough of that and on we press with news of a couple of things I’m involved in over the next few months, the first being “Gunpowder, Treason and Poets” which takes place next Thursday (November 4th) at the Leicester Arms in Penshurst. GT&P is an evening of poetry, comedy and song that combines an augmented version of Flitt & Folio’s Potted History of Humorous Verse (first seen as part of the TW poetry festival) with an open mic on the topic of bonfire night, fireworks, treason and other autumnal delights. We’re joined for this by our friends…
Sunday morning is a good time for me to gather thoughts and write a little. There are few distractions, there is tea in the pot and I seldom have other commitments. I have a bad habit of not doing the thing I should be doing, though, and this morning I ought to be writing some topical humorous verse to share as ‘News in Rhyme’ at our Voices open mic evening on Tuesday, but on Sundays I find myself more reflective and serious.
Despite being an informal and undisciplined type, I like the formality and discipline of writing to a particular form. Unlike many writers more creative than me, I also enjoy the challenge of a writing to a theme or a prompt. So I took up the challenge of writing a couple of poems on the theme of ‘Reflections’ and submitting them to the Sir Philip Sidney Poetry Prize for Penshurst Festival, taking place next weekend. There will be a poetry reading and free (donations invited!) ploughmans lunch at Penshurst church next Sunday, October 3rd. This promises to be a well-attended event, and will include a selection of poetry on the chosen theme including those written and read by local children. As last year’s joint winner, I will be reading that poem, and my partner in (c)rhyme, David Smith, will be reading his prize-winning Lockdown Limerick. I have just heard that I have a poem short-listed for this year’s prize, so I will be reading that too.
Here’s the one that got away.
It startles me, that face so like my own it disconcerts with eyes that scrutinise to see through secrets, filter facts and lies. It knows the sum of everything I’ve known. Beneath the skin the contour of each bone is unmistakable. I recognise my mother, whom I greet with wry surprise, which causes her to pause and, sighing, frown before we both resume the ritual act of powdering and redefining lines. Then I stand back so distance blurs the truth of years I try to mask with this compact and brush, defying time and all its signs with blushes yet more foolish than in youth.
My feet have hardly touched the ground over the past couple of months what with fringe festivals, sketch and comedy nights, poetry festivals and the like, but after all these months of lockdown isn’t it FUN to be having FUN again?
I’ve got another 3-4 weeks of blue-arsed-flying to do but after that things should settle down a bit. Meanwhile, the next thing on my performance calendar is a wee set for Auntie Beeb at the Priory Festival this Saturday (7th August) and then I can relax (HA!) for a bit.
Looking forward to this but will miss Pam (who has family commitments) very much as it’s been a while since I’ve flown solo. I’ll be doing my thing at around 4:30 – if you’re about do pop in and say hi!
By ‘for a bit’ I mean three days, because the next thing on the to-do list is on…
Spring is displaying its glory all around this week, gardens a brazen celebration of forsythia, celandines and daffodils. Their matching yellow is uncompromisingly cheerful, while the sky is doing its best to provide a perfectly contrasting blue backdrop. My home-baked hot cross buns are biding their time in the freezer ready for Friday and, as long as I don’t switch on the news, I can believe that there is a positive note in the air. The birds seem to think so.
Come Easter Sunday, it looks as though some of the flowers from my Mothering Sunday bouquet will still be looking good…
…while the longer days and lighter evenings are lifting the mood somewhat…
Wishing you all the best in this season of renewal.
This is not a plea for sympathy, but a statement of fact: my father died a year ago today and we have still not been able to arrange the send-off he deserved. We promised him a memorial service in the village church followed by an almighty party. Instead of which, there was a private family cremation at the beginning of the first lockdown, when just six of us were permitted to attend. He was a man of diverse talents and interests, he had many friends and was always described as a gentleman. Naturally, my family feel he deserves better, so we have put together a website in his memory, which will have to do until we are able to gather again. He led an interesting life – I hope you will agree (click image for link).
Yesterday I was privileged to be invited to participate in two virtual events to mark International Women’s Day. One was to witness an old (in the good way!) friend receiving an award for the work she does for the Pure Earth environmental charity, and the other was a local IWD event to which I contributed this poem.
The snow has returned, blown in on Siberian winds to bleaken a world that waited, poised for spring.
Braced against its stinging whorls, skin tensed and greying, we grapple with the everyday, faces set grim.
The first spectral fall enthralled the children in us, a thrill of lightness sprinkled by a chill smothering hand.
The elder fell as we slept, succumbed to its parasite ivy. Tonight a winter cremation warms us with its final glow
and we know spring must come. Surviving, we go on, frostbitten but undefeated, faces raised to seek the sun.
While thoroughly worthy, I confess that it was more fun to spend the evening messaging much-missed friends who were also sitting at home streaming the events. Nowhere near as good as actual socialising, of course, but important to keep the connections. Naturally, a glass or two of wine was involved, and the washing up had to wait till this morning…
I have to confess that I am flagging somewhat in meeting my ‘daily’ illustrated verse challenge, but that it mostly due to other projects so I am not going to beat myself up about it. One I enjoy is the #Draw challenge set from time to time by Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson over on Twitter. Usually it is a political caricature, but a recent theme was ‘Draw A Better Future’. I really couldn’t see one at first, a state of seemingly perpetual lockdown not striking me as ‘better’ in any way, but one day in the bath my vision of a rosy ‘future’ came to me, and here it is. (Mostly, but not entirely facetious.)
As I write, there is frost on the roof tiles, sunshine in the sky and a prickle in my eyes. It must be early March…
…Which reminds me that next weekend it will be Mothering Sunday in the UK – Mother’s Day, for those who prefer it that way – so here’s a commercial plug for a delightful treasury of illustrated verse that mothers everywhere are sure to appreciate!
Happy birthday, Samuel Pepys! I confess I have never read your diary and, fortunately for you, you will never have to read mine.
Here are a couple more recent entries from ‘The Exhilarating Life and Times of a Middle-aged Woman in Provincial Lockdown’ –
Coming soon – which is more thrilling: sitting on a park bench while it is illegal, or sitting on park benches becoming legal once more? It’s almost too exciting for words, but I’ll do my best to find some.