Friday, 9 November 2012

A Blog Ending with The Sunlight on the Garden

A whole week has almost gone by. Where has it gone? On Monday I was in London at the House of Lords to celebrate Norwich's new UNESCO City of Literature status. First there were photographs and walkabouts, then the party itself, some 140 people, some of them familiar, some friends.  Speeches from Baroness Hollis and Chris Gribble, then nibbles and conversation, writers, editors, poets, politicians, (Jeffrey Archer in there somewhere), the Thames behind, the day bright and walking back to the station with Sam Jordison talking forgotten American writers, home lateish and tired.

Next day to Warwick Arts Centre, first rushing to finish work and reply to emails. Clarissa and I driving through rain, arriving early, eating, meeting Jane from Wordsmith. Into the theatre, getting mic-ed up, saying hello to fellow performers Elizabeth Charis, Daniel Sluman and later Polarbear, with Angela France doing the conversations on a sofa, me reading partly from my Kindle and David Morley present, and it's all fine with a nice review here, then back to Coventry to the hotel and next morning driving in sunshine back to Norwich in time for the wedding at which I read Louis Macneice's wonderful The Sunlight on the Garden as the one single reading of the ceremony. Some photos with confetti and a long lingering lunch, then exhaustion and sleep and waking too late to go out and hear Pat Barker talk at UEA or a visitor talk about Francis Webb.

Because next day, yesterday, early to university for a full day of postponed tutorials and the MA class, and I stay to have a drink with them, talking Norfolk and karaoke and history and The Singing Postman, before coming home late and collapsing again but still answering emails and reading people's work and trying to satisfy requests.

And today waking a little late for once, with more work in the morning before dashing off to Norwich to have coffee with Norwich-based Hungarian theatre director Adina Levay to talk about a project involving two Hungarian, two Austrian and two English plays in March, one of the Hungarian plays by Virág Erdös whose poems I know and have translated some. This is in Frank's Bar which is as arty a cafe as you'll find in the city so just sitting there for fifteen minutes will turn you into Gerard de Nerval. And we talk Hungarian politics and the Újszinház (or New Theatre) where she used to work and which was then handed over to the fascists by the current mayor of Budapest. Then home again where we find out that Clarissa's mother has taken a turn for the worse and we are wanted, which ruins plans for tomorrow for the UEA London conference and a good friend's fiftieth birthday party, all that gone by the board.

I can't remember when I last had two days to myself in a row, and even when I had a day I have been busily fulfilling promises and obligations to others. Time on my own reading and writing has been counted in minutes, the rest in days, weeks.

Here is the wonderful Macneice poem that makes sense of absolutely everything.

The Sunlight on the Garden  

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

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