The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

Away with the fairies

Dunster castle

It’s not all glamour, this poetry life, but when it works it’s bloody marvellous. On Sunday morning I woke up in the guest room of Dunster Castle in Somerset. I had done a reading for the National Trust during a Coleridge celebration,  and this was my reward.

Dunster is a huge fairytale edifice on a hill by the sea, in gardens full of lilac and rambling roses. My room had walnut doors, a big brass bed and (this being the National Trust) a flip chart in case I felt the need to do a SWOT analysis in the night. To get to the shower I had to disable the burglar alarms and tiptoe through great galleries full of portraits of seventeenth-century Luttrells. In the morning I got to poke around in all the rooms by myself, before the visitors arrived. So much of my working life has allowed me behind the scenes in magical places like this: I can still hardly believe my luck.

Somerset - fairy king and queen

Even fairies pick their nose

Speaking of magical places, I drove to Porlock for dinner. A people-carrier pulled up and two fairies got out, straightening their wings. After last week’s floating shaman, I take these things in my stride. There were more fairies on the high street, some of them not even big enough to fly, and a bunch of flautists in purple robes. Porlock, it seemed, was celebrating midsummer with a festival. Titania and Oberon (above) were installed in a sparkly beer tent, ready to judge the Best Fairy competition, and all the shops were open till 9pm. Oh, the glorious weirdness of England…

Cupid updates his delivery method

Cupid updates his delivery method

Breaking the long drive down, I stopped at friend Kirsty’s Gloucestershire chapel. Her cat Horace is so slack in his mousing work that mice actually come in to the kitchen and munch (loudly) through his own cat food in the middle of the night. Any serious cat would find this embarrassing, but Horace just can’t be arsed. I rather admire him.

Home via Glastonbury, where the streets are paved with crystal therapists. I ate in an excellent veggie café between the Psychic Piglet and the Cat & Cauldron. On the next table a lady was saying, ‘I met another little girl called Electric today. She was with Gary.’

Somerset - there are cynics....

Somerset - there are cynics....

Performance poetry seems mundane by comparison. Fourpenny Circus played the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool. The audience included many of the movers and shakers who make poetry move and shake so vigorously on both sides of the Mersey. One person rated us in the top 3 poetry events he has seen (he’s seen a lot) and said that ‘the spirit of Adrian Henri was smiling on you tonight’. We have a little break now before going to Knutsford, Kendal and Biddulph.

All this work and pleasure gets in the way of boating, which after all is the point of life. I have made a short move to a very tranquil mooring near Nantwich, but the next proper trip will be at the end of the month – oh hang on, that’s only next week!

...but lots of trusting people too

...but lots of trusting people too


One comment on “Away with the fairies

  1. Alison Brackenbury
    June 25, 2009

    This is a kind of update to your blog, to say that on Monday (22) you were reading at the Magma launch in a hot packed basement off the Old Brompton Road – and that you read a poem about a sailor, which I loved, especially the final horizons! Very best wishes to Bells and boats,


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This entry was posted on June 22, 2009 by in Uncategorized.
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