Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Last night in Lewes reading to a good many people and, having gone down with a trolley full of books, pleased to be coming back with none. It was a good 45 minutes so for it to go well is as much relief as a delight.
Lewes, where I have now been some four times, seems almost a club rather than a town. It's a secret enclave full of Notables, Artists and Celebrities: a sort of Groucho's of Sussex. Arriving I was met by one of my contemporaries at secondary school, Peter, who was definitely cutting edge at the time (I wasn't even anywhere near the handle) frequenting The Marquee to hear The Yardbirds, then going off into sound engineering and working in big recording studios. He designs websites now and continues to work in radio. He took me to a pub called The Snowdrop, so called not because of nearby flowers but because of an avalanche that landed on it from the nearby white cliff ravine. Nice place. Ex-hippies, kids, respectables and, later, a man in top hat and flowing multi-coloured cape, who looked very much Incredible String Band about 1975, except that he was probably born about 1972, so must have been a retro-cutting-edger. Peter and I talked happily for an hour and more before I was picked up by my host for the night, Christopher and his wife Anne, who took me back to their house where Catherine Smith joined us for a fine dinner, before the walk over the old council chamber at Pelham House Hotel for the Monday Literary Club which was surprisingly packed. Since I never expect to see packed halls when I appear unless it is on a genuinely Grand Occasion, the surprise was marked.
Reading and talk as in first paragraph. Afterwards book selling and signing, and meeting with an ex-school student of mine, now actor Nicola Blackwell and her partner, Nick, as well as with Ruth Swift as was, who was in the very first Leeds Anthology edited by Martin Bell, along with me. Such lovely coincidences. Lewes may be a club in which I know some of the membership. Perhaps everyone I ever knew will eventually be found in Lewes. We drink at the hotel bar till about 11 then I am taken back to C and A's house. The morning we chat for an hour or so over breakfast. They are lovers of cities so we talk about a few we have in common. Then I am back on the train.
I break the journey in London to have lunch with Alfred Corn, who is returning to the USA until January. Alfred is with a stick having hurt his back and is in pain but gracious as ever. He has a present for me - Don Paterson on Shakespeare's Sonnets. We sit down in The Betjeman Arms opposite Kings Cross and talk for an hour or so over food. Poetry, politics, the environment, his education in the USA, some music. Then back on the train again this time to Stevenage to meet C who has been sorting out more affairs for her mother. She drives us back.
I like to write about ideas in these blogs. I doubt whether there is a single idea in the account above. I feel a bit tired and dull, probably a mixture of the two. Tomorrow it is more readings, this time at the Drama Studio, UEA at 7 - 8.30pm. Free readings, myself hosting Peter Scupham, Kate Kilalea, Heidi Williamson, Tom Warner and Sam Riviere. That is not a bad free line up, in fact it's rather magnificent. Let's hope we get a decent audience!