"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
It’s not all relaxation you know… as October gets closer my National Poetry Day work is hotting up, but that doesn’t make for a good picture. I also returned to Wilmslow Library this week for a new series of workshops. It’s great to be back there, but of the eleven people who enrolled for the workshops, only five turned up. So here is the small-but-typical dilemma for the working poet: do I cancel, as I need a minimum of eight people to make it viable – or carry on, since we are there anyway and the others may turn up next week? I took the second view, but the sessions will only make half the income I expected, and that won’t justify the preparation time. Bugger.
On Thursday however, we had more than 60 people in front of us for Fourpenny Circus’ last performance of the summer at Biddulph Town Hall. They were a lovely responsive audience and we had a ball. We’ll get together in August to ‘debrief’ and tweak the script, to make it even better for the autumn season.
Meanwhile, Tinker needs tinkering with in many expensive ways. I have already regained a reliable electricity supply, and on Wednesday I’m having my bottom attended to – the bottom of the boat needs blacking. Worse still, all my portholes have to come out. This will bugger up my beautiful Andy Russell paint job; but better that than to hear the cold water trickling into my bed when it rains. And how it does rain. But at the weekend, friends Kirsty and Ruth dropped their own busy schedules to remind me why boating is the only way to live. We boated through steep cuttings and tree-lined banks to the village of Gnosall for a pint.
We even met a charming angler (no really), who stopped us on the towpath late at night to share with us much enthralling information about the behaviour of eels. We ended the trip with one of those moments that canal life brings every now and then – the loss of a mooring hook despite Ruth’s valiant efforts…
After all a boat, as they say, is just a hole to throw money into – especially these boats at Audlem for the Vintage Transport Day. These are the proper working boats that carried coal, clay and anything else worth carrying. A handful of them gathered in the middle of this lovely canal village, and with them came some familiar faces from my own time on British Waterways’ Working Boats project.
Back on land, I’m still mentoring Charlie Jordan under the My Place or Yours scheme run by the brilliant Apples & Snakes. Charlie is valiantly working on new material for her slot at the Big Chill Festival in early August and I’m trying to give useful comment and advice.
Towering above us all, friend Adrian Johnson has spent an hour on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square: watch it here on the excellent One and Other site. Adrian used his slot to revisit the time he spent in the square during the Poll Tax demonstrations twenty (yes, twenty) years ago, as well as other protests that have taken place there. It was oddly moving to see him on the plinth, a single person reminding us of how powerful many voices together can be. It’s a subject close to his heart, and the subject of his novel Love and Taxes: click to see him reading from it. I felt jolly proud.
I leave you with the image of some fluffy gongoozlers on the Shropshire Union Canal…