Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Nothing to do with me?

I am so pleased I made the effort to go to the Bloomsbury Festival launch of 'In Protest: 150 Poems For Human Rights', it was fantastic!

I started off by going to the Poetry Slam, which was on before the launch. 6 poets were performing their human rights poetry and they were a-may-zing. I've never been to anything like that before. The way they performed their poems was... well the only word I can think of to describe it is 'performance', which I know is a bit weak of me, but it really was. Imagine 6 poets all trying to outperform each other as well as choose their strongest poems and the 4 judges give marks so that in the end only 2 poets remain. The only one I didn't resonate with so much was a member of the audience who stood in at the last moment and, although her poem was great and she was brave to do it, she didn't perform well and she also flouted the rules as they asked for a person who had 3 poems to come forward and she only had the one. In spite of that the judges put her through to the final where she was resoundly beaten by last year's winner Keith Jarrett, who recited his poem 'A Gay Poem' to completely blow the audience away. You can see him on YouTube performing it here.

After that it was time for the launch. Loads of people and many wonderful readings. The ones that stood out for me were Ruth Padel and Cath Drake. The book itself is lovely (I got a free copy) and it really was quite special to see my poem 'Kora in Lhasa' sitting in the same book as such luminaries as Carol Ann Duffy and Ruth Padel. It's on page 159 if you're interested.

I was a little overawed by the whole thing to be honest and I could hardly believe that my poem was judged to be good enough, but one of the organisers told me that all poems were judged blind by 4 different people. They'd had over 600 poems to work with and whittle down to 150. They also told me they're doing other events during the year and I might well be asked to read, so I'm going to have to get my performance hat on having seen the standard of those at the launch if I'm going to do that.

When it finished we were all invited for a glass of wine and a mingle. I was a bit taken aback when Ruth Padel came up to me as we were both heading for the peanuts to tell me how much she loved my top! In my fluster I said thank you and then promptly asked her to sign my book, which felt a bit cheesy to say the least. She obliged and then went on to sign many others so I wasn't the only cheese in the room!

I left after a while and promptly showed my lack of awareness and got lost... I went in the total wrong direction to where I was headed, which won't surprise many who know me and hadn't a clue where I was, but after a rather long detour I found myself back on track and decided to reward myself for my poetry efforts, my cheese skills and my getting lost by having a wonderful Japanese dinner at Kiku on my way back to my mother's house. Expensive, but so delicious!

I seem to have this rather bizarre skill of attracting small children. I think it's the very obvious child in me that refuses to grow up and is stuck somewhere around the age of 6, because that's usually the age of the children who want to come and talk to me. I also have a propensity to chat to teenage boys of about 17, but I'm not going into that one now, you'll have to talk to Mountain Man if you want the lowdown!

Anyway, there I was at dinner and on the next table were 2 families who had young kids with them and the next thing, as I'm sipping my saki and revelling in my Page 159 success, I was surrounded by a small girl, her brother and another boy. She was about 6 and the boys about 8. They chatted away to me in an engaging way, but I couldn't understand a word... they were Italian without a word of English apart from 'hello' and my Italian stretches not much further than 'spaghetti' and 'arrividerci' (MM would also tell you, I'm sure, of the time we were in Venice and spoke the most perfect French ever, but again that's another story). They had an Italian au pair with them and she translated. It was a fun meal.

Yesterday it was time to head home. I got my train with no problem at King's Cross at 11 and settled down in what seemed like a very full train. I had a conversation with a fellow traveller about travelling to Scotland and how pleased I was I didn't have to do the 8 hour train journey from London to Inverness any more and how civilised it was living in the Borders and it only taking 3 hours 40 minutes and not long after that I decided to go to the loo. We'd just passed Peterborough, about an hour out of London. As I flushed the loo there was a loud bang. I wondered what I'd done. The next thing is, as I headed back to my seat, I was aware the train had stopped. Then I really wondered what I'd done!

It turns out it wasn't me at all. The train had struck an overhead cable and we were going nowhere. After about twenty minutes we were informed they were sending for a rescue engine to tow us. Only problem was it was coming from Doncaster and would take 'a while'. This 'while' turned into 4 hours! We then had an unscheduled stop at Doncaster just in case passengers were so pissed off they wanted to alight there, which made us over 4 and a half hours late.

I eventually arrived in Berwick upon Tweed, totally exhausted. I don't think this was helped by the fact that they ran out of all snacks on the train apart from alcohol and frankly, as we crept into Newcastle, I made the decision that a gin and tonic was going to ease the pain of what turned out to be an 8 hour and 34 minute train journey. I felt really sorry for those with small kids.

In future I don't think I'll tempt fate by saying anything about how long it can take on the train from London to Inverness. Oh yes, and I'll be a little careful when I flush the loo. I'm still not convinced that it had nothing to do with me!


  1. Justified recognition of your poetry skills, I believe. Well done!
    As for not being a train terrorist, we will await the CCTV footage and the ongoing investigation by Peterborough NCIS.

  2. Best excuse for a gin I've ever heard! Congratulations on your publication too.