The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make….

Careful down below…

….but it felt like it, as narrowboat Swallow was craned into the water on Tuesday. It concentrates the mind wonderfully when you look out of the window and see a 70ft boat being gently lowered, apparently onto the roof of your own.

I was, however, calm – for I have taken up meditation and discovered my inner Buddha with the help of the wonderful Headspace. I was serene  by the time of my Knutsford reading with twinkle-eyed Sam Youd, and practically levitating when I heard that I am one of five finalists in the Buxton Poetry Competition. I came back down to earth after building a website, blog, Facebook and Twitter pages and writing contracts for my new project with David Calcutt.

On Saturday I was in Brum, for a Writing Squad with young people. They are a terribly astute lot and as capable as any adult group of reading subtexts and analysing language. The older of our two groups, in particular, had a really good bash at writing dialogue.

I know it’s nearly summer because well dressings are appearing,  in their reassuringly pagan way, all over the Peak. They look like this (left) when they’re finished – but driving through a Staffordshire village, it was magical to see the oak frames being soaked ready for the event.

Worshipping water

It was a moment of belonging, not just in England but in this watery bit of it. So this week’s exercise is to write about a watery place. Avoid all those cliches like ‘babbling brooks’. Show me what it really felt like to be in that place, at that time. Write in situ. Don’t try and imagine a watery place whilst sitting in your living room – get out there to smell and hear it. I did so, purely in the name of research, as we took a trip boat to the pub on a sunny evening…for it is that time of year when we stop envying you house-dwellers in your cosy abodes, and you start envying us with our delicious watery freedoms.

Chris Shipwreck and Mrs Shipwreck warming their cockles


3 comments on “One Swallow Does Not a Summer Make….

  1. Angela Topping
    May 23, 2010

    See, you like young people really 🙂

  2. Paul Beech
    May 29, 2010


    Silk-spun by spiders,
    He was found amongst the sunflowers and lupins
    Of his riverside garden,
    Rigor well advanced,
    Biro between clubbed fingers,
    Scrawled note on a wodge of faded newsprint.

    Bottle green, sinuous,
    The river had softened the horrors of his mind:
    A pulsating glow on the horizon
    As his birthplace burned in the Blitz;
    His sheep ablaze on a foot & mouth pyre
    As his pregnant wife bade him goodbye.

    The flash of dorsal fin or dragonfly
    Had called forth imagery of a lighter hue
    For burnishing in the scents of lilac and lavender:
    First fumble in an Austin Ruby,
    Nude sketchbook exhibited in the Village Hall,
    Mallard mating in a fan of spray.

    Ozone from the sluice
    Had soothed his tightening lungs
    Until, with a gasp, he’d tipped his hat
    To cheat the crows of his eyes.
    The note was addressed to the son he’d barely known:
    “Loved you always. My ashes to the swans, OK?”

    Paul Beech

  3. Paul Beech
    May 29, 2010

    Re my above poem – 2nd stanza, last line – please read ‘said her’ for ‘bade him’. (Don’t know what possessed me to write that!) Thanks, Paul

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