The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Don’t panic…

….I’m back, after ten days of intensive arsing about in God’s Own Country (Yorkshire, obviously). It started with a weekend near Whitby with esteemed chums Hannah and Heather. We ate authentic kippers, bought things we didn’t need and drank a lot.

Fortunes kipper smoking house

Fortunes kipper smoking house

On then to a fantastically useful week at the Arvon Foundation’s house near Hebden Bridge. Tutors Ian Duhig and Anthony Thwaite both said very nice things about my poetry. My confidence, badly dented by a year of almost complete inactivity on the writing front, was boosted; and with the help of their exercises I slowly, painfully began to WRITE. My muse, it seems, has got off its arse and, though still grumbling a bit about its arthritis and its poor memory, is coming up with the goods. I left Lumb Bank with a little clutch of actual pomes, and not before time. 

They kick you out of Arvon houses on Saturday morning, blinking like a released cult member. I came down slowly, paying my respects to the Brontës in the exceptionally average museum at Haworth, then going to the Ted Hughes Festival in Mytholmroyd and finally to Saltaire, where Salt’s Mill houses an extremely dangerous bookshop. One of the many, many books I bought was the brilliant and inspiring Guerilla Gardening. Guerilla gardeners creep out in the night armed with ‘seed bombs’ and spades, to plant up the nasty little non-spaces around petrol stations, subways or road verges with flowers and vegetables. Richard Reynolds sets out how a few bulbs, lavender seeds or sunflowers can change people’s environment and their attitude to life – from Giggleswick to Guantanamo Bay. Bereft of a garden since I came to boating, I’m quite looking forward to nocturnal horticulture on the roundabouts and verges of Macc.

The eternally reliable Alistair Sawday’s Special Places to Stay (buy the book, which has much more info than the website) located a wonderful B&B with a blistering view and a spread of foodstuffs on the breakfast table that would outface Henry VIII. I’ve come back from my travels feeling distinctly squashy and unfit.


The inevitable little heap of mail includes one from British Waterways asking me if I have noticed any unusual discharges. I would have thought that was between me and my doctor…


This entry was posted on October 28, 2008 by in Writing exercises.
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