Friday, 28 January 2011

Back lateish from...

...London, of course. The process of judging with others is an amplification of the arguments one has with oneself, but from different angles. There is minute examination of the poems with the greatest claims on us, attempts to persuade one another of the virtue of this or that, the whole event somehow organic in that it is constantly moving this way and that as though the decisions were live creatures, now out in the sunshine, now sheltering under rocks. And then a beam of light hits one or other poem, or part of poem, and it looks quite different again. Eventually, after a long time, Sinead flies back to Belfast, I get the train back to Norfolk and Deryn spends the night in London before returning to Liverpool.

The train from King's Cross to Cambridge is always a nightmare from late afternoon to mid-evening. You wait around under the main departure board not knowing whether your train will depart from the main hall or from the suburban platforms - they don't tell you till ten minutes before departure and it takes a few minutes to rush over to the suburbans should the train go from there - as it did today. Then there are no seats, and you stand in the packed carriage which is far too hot, and there's no room to take off your coat or to park your bag, and if you get the quarter past the hour train there is the constant anxiety of missing the eight-minute connection time to the Norwich line, which I have done often enough.

I did find a seat today, possibly the only one left on the train, but that was because the man in the aisle seat had put his heavy bag in the window seat, and I politely asked if I might sit down. He was cheery enough but tired like me, and nodded off now and then. Unfortunately the seat was right under the blower that was pumping out heat enough to bake bread.

At Cambridge we unwedge ourselves and pour out onto the platform. Having got the earlier train I have twenty-five minutes or so to wait. The waiting room is dingy and full of half-empty paper cups and plates, empty packets and left over food, with serviettes on the floor. The poor young man minding the bar has no time to get out and clean anything because he's on his own. I read David Harsent while nibbling something. It is however true that Cambridge is better than Ely, which in turn is better than Thetford, than which I suspect, little is worse.

On the way home I read more Harsent then listen to Talking Heads. Myself, I am talked out.


Angela France said...

I've appreciated reading about the judging process. It would be fascinating to eavesdrop on those discussions - I'd love to know what makes one poem or another to shoulder forward into that beam of light.

George S said...

It is an interesting question that requires a longer answer than a comment box allows. Perhaps I might write a post on that, Angela, without revealing anything specific.

Angela France said...

I'll look forward to that.