Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Back from... and back to..., Dove Cottage, reading with Jen Hadfield, which was a delightful experience. Jen's voice is a thing apart, so full of relish for language and a close, almost religiously close, eye. And there is the incantatory quality which is exhilarating. I enjoyed this reading as much as any I have done in recent years. And Emma Jones there, and Neil filming and recording. We had dinner then stuck around in the bar for an hour or so The bedroom lovely but hot. Like sleeping in an oven on very low gas.

Shown round the Wordsworth Centre in the morning - wonderful early editions, the spaces lovely and the rooms all air-conditioned and perfectly lit. I had been shown it before in 2005, when it was not quite ready, by the late Robert Woof who was to die before the end of that year. (I sat opposite his widow, the scholar, Pamela Woof, at dinner chatting about tragedy and The Winter's Tale, etc.)

The train back was a nightmare though. The first train from Windermere was late so I would have missed the connection at Oxenholme. Kindly Andy Forster dashed Jen and I off to Oxenholme. On track again, I thought, and in good time to Birmingham New Street. There, however, the train did not arrive when it was due to and there was no announcement, though there was, at same time a long stream of announcements about other trains of which half were apologies for lateness. Rail travel in Britain is truly an utter shambles. I cringe just to think of it. Some half an hour later there did come an announcement for us to dash to another platform. The small train was crowded out. Then a railman made another announcement, on board this time but without amplification, his voice lost in the hubbub, so he was almost 100% inaudible. People started rushing off again, back, it turned out, to the platform they had just left. But the train now waiting there was only as far as Leicester. Bound for Ely, I was advised to stay on, once I had found the railman with the announcement, despite 'technical problems'. The train half-empty now, it stood there another half an hour before setting off on its two and a half hour journey. Impossible to make connections now. Not a word of apology. Some three hours later we were at Ely where I had a twenty minute wait for the train after the one I missed.

The point was that C's show was opening at 6.30 and even if my train had been on time I would only have arrived about an hour later. Now I was two and quarter hours late. But the place was not quite empty - daughter and now son-in-law there as well as other good friends and some six pieces sold! In celebration six of us troop off to the Indian and now I am so exhausted I am practically asleep as I type this so there are bound to be typos to be picked up and corrected in the morning.

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