Friday, December 29, 2006

Are we nearly there yet?
... Yes, we are. Happy New Year to readers & writers everywhere.
My 2007 diary - which depicts a preposterously stiletto-heeled, outrageously scarlet, thigh-high boot, I must have been in quasi-courtesan mode when I bought it - is already crammed with writerly things: summer festivals and conferences, autumn workshops and, most wonderful of all, Spring in Crete... Peter & I are going back to Chania to spend five weeks walking and writing, exploring coastal tracks and villages before the tourist season starts. And even before that, for me the thrill of spending January in Chile, leading creative writing sessions at a venue near Santiago (where it's currently 33 degrees, compared to 11 here...)
But though it's hard to keep my head in the wintry cusp of the old year, there have been some sweet and splendid moments: visits to friends, impromptu carols, walking Stourhead's Six Wells Valley, and an idyllic afteroon at The Cross Bath with Peter's family, playing in this hot open-air pool while the streets of Bath outside slewed with Sale shoppers.

Well, Greek philosophy allegedly began with the notion that water is the origin and mother-womb of all things, so maybe this is an appropriate way to greet the year ahead.

And as the old year begins its slow slouch to the exit like the last reluctant aunt as the disco ends, I'm once again pondering the curious appeal of blogging. Today's Observer Review (the reason I spend so much time in coffee houses is of course to save on newspapers) raises the question with a handful of writers who admit to the habit of journaling. I like best Kate Kellaway's image: "For me it is like placing a rock in a stream, a way of interrupting the flow of time, diverting it - having the comforting illusion that it has not escaped forever." A virtual pod-cast of thoughts and impressions, made by a magic damn. I like that.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Did you know the derivation of the word Yule? Me neither, till I asked the oracle (aka Wikipedia) and found it's from the Anglo-Saxon word for yellow - "geol” - since "Yule as a midwinter festival had much to do with "bringing back the sun" and creating bright and shining sun- and fire-themed decorations and festivities." 

Appropriately, this has been a bright and shining week, starting with the lively Merlin Theatre party at Christies Wine Bar where Dimitri provided tapas and Secret Santa provided presents.
And despite the fog, Bristol shone bright on Solstice night: - amazing meal with my sons & their families after a great walk around the city best-bits.

This is Florrie's first christmas so there have to be books...

Peter & I celebrated the solstice more quietly next day with a foggy walk along the Bath skyline woods where the trees glittered with ice droplets and frosted spiderwebs. If this was a card the caption could be that Thoreau quote: "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

It's been a week of sinful stollen moments, and I wish that was a typo... Two writers' meetings, both of which turned into a feast of seasonal treats as well as stories and stanzas. It's not actually murky enough, weather-wise, to justify xmas xcess. On Saturday there's a stunning blue sky and Peter & I enjoy a walkabout day with our journals; Peter writes about "pausing the fast forward day" as we linger in Cafe Nero watching the Bristol bustle. In the evening there's a gig at The Folk House, co-hosted by Rosemary Dun - that's her being a fairy - where we enjoy the diverse talents of Mo the foxy Peoples' Nun, Lucy English, and a mad trio called More Silage as well as the incomparable lugubrious genius of Nathan Filer. Nathan's themes are generally on the dark side - no-one who's heard it will forget his Oedipal memoir - and tonight the focus is on unrequited love by various women and a yucca plant, though the deeper the descent to personal purgatory the funnier the poem. It's cruel but tempting to hope the poet's heart remains unhealed for a while longer, or at least that he remembers how to bear a grudge.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Poetry highlight of the week, and possibly the century, is the FOUR CONTINENTS Slam in Bristol on Thursday. Steve Larkin, the dynamo behind Hammer & Tongue, explains the concept to a crowded Polish Club: "It's a vibrant, high octane - thing!" And indeed it is. Perhaps his view of the scoring system is spot-on too: "It's a metaphor for humanity's struggle to impose order on a chaotic world." Or maybe it's more important than that. Whatever, it's a fantastic event. Here's 8 poets, the creme de la creme of 4 continents, giving us the best of their best on the last night of a 13-venue tour... you get the picture, and an idea of the atmosphere of intense cameraderie as well as rivalry. We'd gone to cheer the local boy, Elvis McGonagall, but like everyone else ended up cheering them all. Special praise from me for: US Sonya Renee's explosive "Tag", for the sensuous evocation of Africa by Andreattah Chuma, for John Akpata's poignant challenge "What do you know about love?" & for Australasian Thom's impro love anthem to his tour-mates: "No voice can contain the beauty of your dreaming". And to Elvis, of course, who won on the night and with Sweden's Henry Bowers took Europe to an overall tour win. Of course, like Steve says, it's the poetry not the points that's the point, but great fun when the judges hold up their scoreboards, especially with a rare, exhilerating, "Perfect 10!"

And now Christmas is slithering inexorably closer like some great glittering snake which... well, slithers. Inexorably. It's hard to look ahead to next year, but necessary: I have a Valentine Poetry Cafe to plan - Rose Flint has agreed to guest - and there's a Words@Frome Festival meeting.

And on Friday I meet with Diana Cambridge, editor of Greece among other multi-talented writing roles, to talk about next year's island visits... after all, it's only 10 days to the solstice, and then the long nights will slowly start to shorten again.

Saturday night is party time at Annabelle's - as befits an actor she's looking gorgeously theatrical in an amazing outfit complete with pink parakeet. The rest of us provide a mixed bag of attire, especially when an impromtu dance of several veils somehow ends up with them all on our heads Her Maj.-stylee...