"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde
I write this immense blog, dear readers, from the bottom end of the Macclesfield Canal. The water is full of fallen leaves, and the wind has a damp and autumnal feel. National Poetry Day creeps closer, and should be our best-evercelebration of poetry in Britain – but you can read all about that here.
To reach the latest Lit Up conference, showcasing and discussing live literature, I stayed in London with small friends Tilly and Iggy (left). Iggy is through her cosmonaut phase and is now dressing like a small woollen Pope.
The conference was a creative melting pot with showcase performances from Polarbear, Justin Coe, Luke Wright, Lemn Sissay and others. Some were triumphs, some not quite there, and one or two were plain bad. Fourpenny Circus would have stood up very well here.
And so to Cheltenham – a beautiful, creative town at its best in autumn, when the streets are paved with conkers – for a meeting about work with the National Trust. I also confirmed a few gigs – one at Nantwich reading my own work, one with dream team A F Harrold and Elvis McGonagall in the Deep South West. Just as I was feeling pleased with myself, I saw that friend Daljit Nagra was reading with poetry gods Seamus Heaney, Wendy Cope and Paul Muldoon. Jealous? Not much – still, I may have to pull his pigtails next week at the Forward Prize.
Work, however lovely, is the ‘business’ half of my life. Boating is the ‘life’ part of my life. As the nights start seriously to draw in, I need to get to my winter berth with its lovely reliable electricity. So Smily Man and I pushed Tinker off her spectacular mooring on the Hazelhurst Aqueduct, and started the slow journey north through Stoke.
It was one in, one out – for as we left the Caldon we came upon friends Russell and Fran, travelling the other way with boat dog Bramble. They have had enough of crewing with me and bought their own boat.
Stoke is full of old industrial treasures – warehouses, wharves and boatyards, and the odd bottle kiln with its oddly domestic proportions.
We stopped off at the Etruria Flint Mill and moored at Westport Lake, which was radiant in a bright autumn sunset – as, of course, was the Smily Man.
So on Sunday, with one 45-minute journey through the awesome Harecastle Tunnel and one sharp left, I was back on the Macclesfield Canal after five months away.
It was nice to be back, but it wasn’t unadulterated pleasure. As Smily Man sweated over locks, struggled to free my boat from underwater obstructions, almost impaled himself on the bargepole and survived my attempt to poison him with salmonella-laden chicken, he wondered aloud if he was mad to be helping me travel away from him, back to my Cheshire hibernaculum when his boat is tucked away in Staffordshire. Yet three days’ boating is only half an hour’s drive. We will manage.
Tune in next week to see if we actually made it back to Macclesfield… where the natives are ready to welcome us in their usual solemn manner.
*title supplied by Smily Man. Respect.