Friday, 26 August 2011

Events, dear boy, more events.

Today to London to the RA to meet Timothy West, Prunella Scales and Christian Roe as well as Colin Ford and Pele Cox. We are working out what to do next Friday for the photography / poetry evening, Double Exposure, in the Reynolds Room.

But first into university where everything has changed except my room. People are not where they were, offices have migrated to a lower floor and become conjoined, as have the people who used to occupy them. I think this is part of the economy drive but how it actually works, or will work, is a puzzle. A lot of excellent administrators will either be administering something they haven't administered before, or will be administering several things at the same time. The learning curve sounds dizzying.

I have driven in through heavy rain that grows lighter as I go. The car park is being worked on so entering and leaving is rather maze-like, but I find a space and pick up one PhD student's examiners' report and thesis, and print out another's collection of poems to put in order on the train to London. Faintly disorientated I drive home before quickly heading out again.

One peculiarity of the railway system is that different companies operate different ticket arrangements. So I find that leaving from W it doesn't matter if I return in rush hour, it costs the same, whereas if I had gone from Norwich to Liverpool Street I'd have to pay a lot extra. This pleasant idiosyncracy is explained to me by the conductor. If, however, you were to ask Information at Kings Cross they'd tell you you'd have to wait till rush hour was over (or so they told me last time). If your left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, why not grow a third hand?

The meeting is for 3pm and I arrive at 2:15 so I stop for a bite down Piccadilly because there'll be no food at the RA. When I arrive prompt at 3, Timothy, Prunella, Colin and Pele are already there. Christian turns up a few minutes later. It's fun in a Mad Hatter's Tea Party sort of way. I can't quite follow the alterations to the programme: I know I am to read some passages from my essay, and that either Timothy or Christian, or both, are going to read a couple of my poems, and that I read one of my poems at the end. Pele is writing it all down so it will be fine. I smile and agree to everything. I am, of course, flattered to be in such company and if they'd like some wine served I could go and fetch some. They're perfectly nice. Prunella looks a little stern, but her smile is lovely and bright. We go to see the Reynolds Room. Nice room. I'm sure we'll be fine. The actors will be marvellous and it will be moving fun.


On the way home everything goes well most of the way. It's a very tight connection at Cambridge but we make it and I find a seat, but at Ely something extraordinary happens. There is an enormous crowd waiting to get on - some train earlier had gone astray. It is like that Japanese film showing how guards jam passengers onto a train. I am already seated at a window. A girl comes and sits next to me before the rest of the crowd get on and soon there is no room to move. Then two acts of chivalry. The girl next to me offers her seat to an older man (he refuses) as does another woman behind him (he refuses). I am touched by this, not only as an act of kindness but as the reversal of centuries of custom. I can't offer anyone my seat because I am squeezed up against the window so follow this with interest. Soon the seventy year old man and the girl are chatting. He's from Walsall on a visit, she has come up from London where she works - in Hackney (she mentions the riots) - to visit her family in H, near Attleborough. She trains dogs for Crufts. She finds some pictures of her dogs on her mobile phone and shows him. He is a sweet gent with a fine black country accent, just been to Cambridge. Meanwhile at the really packed standing area by the door there is a lot of banter. Pure Blitz spirit.


Oh, and on Sunday I am Voewood in the Poetry Tent with Jack Underwood, Helen Mort, Matthew Gregory and Rhian Edwards. We are being curated by Sam Riviere and Nathan Hamilton. Seeing as I taught Jack and Matthew and Sam and Nathan, my fear of performance goes up a notch. I will probably trip over the guy-ropes. Voewood is BIG. I mean THIS BIG. Other poets appearing include Emily Critchley, S.J. Fowler, Kate Kilalea, Luke Kennard, and Christopher Reid (Saturday) Lorraine Mariner, Tim Cockburn, Molly Naylor, Tom Warner and Ruth Padel (Monday).

There are also a lot of famous people - writers, artists, musicians - too many to mention, but you can see that for yourselves via the link.

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