"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
If you’ve been reading the Guardian this week you can’t have missed Ledbury Poetry Festival. Events included an open mike with our splendid poet in residence, Daljit Nagra; readings by Ben Okri, Benjamin Zephaniah, Aidan Moffat and Fred D’Aiguiar; and happy meetings for me with once-a-year friends like Angela France of Buzzwords and Colin Watts of Dead Good Poets. We were also joined by Estonian poet Asko Kunnap.
Fourpenny Circus was not part of Ledbury Poetry Festival, but we played to a packed house at Knutsford on Sunday night and sold a lot of books – including John Lindley’s new one, The Casting Boat published by Headland, which he launches this week. Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre is next, on Thursday. On a smaller scale of poetic success, I did a reading of garden poems at Wilmslow Library, alongside Sam Youd, the head gardener at Tatton Park. He told stories and gave gardening tips, and I read rude poems about slugs and asparagus.
My boating journeys were short but satisfying this week. I moored for a while at the rather unwelcoming Wharf Inn at Shebdon (NB not theWharf Tavern at Goldstone, which is very friendly) beside boating friends Geoff and Hui-yen. They’ve been pursuing me along the Shropshire Union for weeks and we finally met up for a few days. They did me the huge favour of moving Tinker to the next mooring while I drove to meet them, so that I didn’t have to walk back for the car as usual.
It was odd to see her sailing off into the sunset with someone else at the helm, but lovely to do a bit of boating in convoy with their boat Ayer Rajah (Water King) leading the way, and Tinker following behind.
Tinker needed minor surgery to fix electrics and leaks, so I began to look for a boat hospital. Now in a perfect world, when work like this needs doing I would find myself arriving at a boatyard that can do it, at a time when I can conveniently leave it with them for a while. In a perfect world that place would also have Wi-Fi access, a secure car park, a laundry and modern shower block, and friendly people to deal with. In an absolutely perfect world, this enforced stop-over would even include meetings with friends from my former life on British Waterways’ Working Boats Project….
….. well, ladies and gentlemen, I offer you Norbury Wharf, where all of the above applies. Tinker and I will be here for a while. She can be prodded and poked and fixed, and I can whizz around the country in the knowledge that she is safe. The only problem is the horseflies – I have temporarily lost the use of an arm, as my shoulder has swelled up like a tennis ball.
Next week sees me in Kendal, then at the Larmer Tree Festival in Wiltshire, and also in London and Manchester. Deep joy – deep, exhausting joy….