The Bell Jar: Jo Bell's blog

"She lives the poetry she cannot write" – Wilde

An Awfully English Adventure

Cheery beery man at Hartington

A quiet week, as weeks go. A short one too, thanks to a Bank Holiday at one end and a festival at the other. On Monday I headed into the Peak District with, as the song says, no particular place to go. It was a perfectly English day of well dressings, brass bands, food fairs, jumble sales and burgers on the village green. Something for everyone.

Well dressing at Endon. Rather showy I thought

Maypole dancing. No, really

And my festive summer continues – I’m posting this blog by witchcraaaaft, as my corporeal self is currently at the Wychwood Festival. So I can’t yet report on my weekend, but I can tell you about the splendid magazine Popshot. The poetry is a mixed bag, but has some great contributions from  Helen Mort and Hollie McNish; the illustrations are weird and wonderful. Website The Literary Platform, meanwhile, showcases digital and literary projects like my own Bugged (of which, I promise, no further mention this week).

Those of you unlucky enough to have heard me on Radio 4’s flagship news programme The World Tonight will be delighted to hear that I can’t figure out how to upload my World Cup poem as an MP3 file here. When I can, I will. It’s not my finest hour, dear reader – but I do like to make you smile. To which end, your writerly mission this week is – write about a celebration of some sort. A big festival, a family birthday party or wedding, an unusual or private celebration. But celebrate, because after all the Big Shiny Thing in the Sky has returned.

Tune in next week for news of the Wychwood Festival, my performance thereat… and whether we made it back.


3 comments on “An Awfully English Adventure

  1. Paul Beech
    June 8, 2010


    It wasn’t quite the retirement do he’d envisaged through the long years of service.

    After all the emails and expense, no one came. Maybe three from his team, a few friends, no top brass. The room was a mocking cavern, the surplus food a mountain. Where was the happy hubbub with tinkling glasses and laughter? Where the tears? He’d dreaded a stripogram but needn’t have worried.

    Had she come, she’d have died laughing. Perhaps not: cold contempt was more her style. He’d appointed her. She was good at her job. He’d respected her, never knowingly offended her, yet clearly was loathsome in her eyes. He never knew why.

    There’d been a presentation in the office earlier and she’d walked out in the middle of his speech. It hadn’t been easy to carry on after that.

    Childminding for his daughters, DIY, writing…the years have passed, and it doesn’t matter any more, does it?

    Faintly, through the beat of the rain, he’ll hear again the music no one danced to. Ponder afresh the mystery of The Silent One.

    Other times he’ll watch the sunset and dream.

    Paul Beech

  2. Norman Hadley
    June 10, 2010

    The Birthday Balloon

    The burners were the candles on a cake
    Dewed with morning frosting
    Billowing above, our canopy of cloth
    Fluttering gay as a Tudor tournament
    Tugging at the fronded sky; an apple
    Set to test the bonds of Newton.

    We gathered in the basket, disparate
    Voyagers clinging to a pendulous shipwreck
    Thrown together by flickers of fortune
    Finding among us a concurrence of birthdays.

    Comparing progress, nominal ledgers
    Of children, marriages, ashes scattered
    Hung halfway between the Earth and spinning space
    Halfway between two flavours of darkness.

    Imagine us then
    Ballooned in bellies
    As Neil and Buzz squeezed
    Into impossible capsules
    Ready to pop
    Into novel consciousness.
    Let life begin.

  3. Jo Bell
    June 11, 2010

    Norman and Paul – thanks so much, how nice to have people rising to the challenge! Jo

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