"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
‘Post office strike in South Africa is delaying my biltong maker’ says the message. Normally I would read this as a) an elaborate anagram b) the start of a phishing scam or c) a euphemism for something filthy, but it comes from friend Jonnie who is incapable of all three. So we must take it as entirely literal. He has taken to dressing his tiny daughter as a cosmonaut. I am going to London next week to sort him out.
Back on earth, I’ve covered 800 miles since last Thursday. I went back to Newcastle, where I lived for 12 years. I stood under the bridge, remembered all the years of moving around that great city, and breathed it in. It was fantastic – that feeling of being absolutely familiar with a place, but not looking back wistfully.
Back to the Peaks to workshop with very fine poets – Ann Atkinson, Poet Laureate of the Peak, and others including Jennifer Copley and Carole Bromley. I have no idea why they allow me to consort with them, but it was fantastic to write with them.
Then a dash to Bristol, for the 40th birthday party of impossibly glam friend Sara-Jane – and back at last to Staffordshire for my last few days on the Caldon Canal. The ever-more-splendid Smily Man is going to crew for me as I head snailfully back to Macclesfield. Amongst his other virtues is an ability to keep quiet as I cock up yet another attempt to wind (turn) the boat.
On Tuesday I was working from the office at Macclesfield Canal Centre, when our feudal landlord Kevlar embarked on an orgy of boat-lifting. Nine boats came out of the water one after the other, for the ritual bottom-blacking that we have to do every couple of years. I know how unnerved friend Monty felt, watching his own boat lifted above his head onto the hard standing.
Kev calmly directed operations like a bear-shaped traffic warden – and to our complete astonishment, the boats did indeed fit into the space around the wharf, with inches to spare.
There is not room to swing a cat but the boats are getting painted one by one – a tribute to Kevlar’s splendid organisation. All this, and he can play the guitar too. I just hope he has the bunting and dancing girls ready for my return in early October.
This blog is of course slightly late – because National Poetry Day (whisper it) is but two weeks away, and my days are full of emails and small but essential tasks. The team consists of me and the Colman Getty PR gurus, plus at this time of year a helping administrative hand from dear Mrs Pilkington. In the background towers William Sieghart, the charismatic inventor of both NPD and the Forward Prize for Poetry. This is a good year for poetry all round (new laureate, woman laureate, Poetry Society centenary, strong Forward Prize list) and we are hoping for really good media coverage on the day. A host of activities is happening all over the country and our poet for the day is – good grief – the Poet Laureate herself, the unrivalled Carol Ann Duffy. This should be a good one, methinks.