The snow brought Frome not so much to a standstill as a slide. The main road was briefly closed, with cars abandoned at odd angles or, more ominously, slipping backwards down the hill with horn on full alert. Police advice not to travel seemed a good call, so reluctantly I missed the final rehearsals of the On the Edge plays - but the thaw came just in time for Sunday night's Love Cafe in Bath.
Enterprising organisers Sue Boyle and Caleb Parkin had created a scripted evening which survived the weather warnings with compliant readers standing in for absentee poets. "I think we've got the aggressive butterfly" said Sue, doing the roll call, "do we have the melancholy waitress?" We did, and all the humour and pathos you'd expect from the night's theme. 'Je m'aime' was an email sonnet collaboration between Caleb and me, performed by Arabella Butler and Paul Hurley with Caleb on cello - all I contributed on the night was some Jane Birkinesque passionate gasping. Great fun - check it out on Youtube here.
Still on things lyrical, the next Frome Poetry Cafe is on March 4th, with a theme of celebration. Just because it's been a long winter.
From stage to page: Diana Athill’s memoir Somewhere Towards The End, recipient of the Costa award for biography. The Daily Mail published an extract focusing on her sex life, apparently with much the same view as Samuel Johnson had of women expressing opinions: "like a dog's walking on his hind legs: It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all."
“The woman who worked her way through the Kama Sutra in her sixties – and at 91 refuses to worry about death - reveals how to grow old disgracefully” marvelled the Mail header, adding as further headline tasters The delights of late-flowering lust and Wear what you damn well like.
The DM has never been bothered by tedious constraints like consistency and was soon back on ageist form with an acid comment on 75-year old Joan Collins posing in Hello: "Hardly conventional for a pensioner."
Guardian columnist Michele Hanson responded tersely: "And what is a conventional pensioner meant to wear? Maroon, or navy, or beige... tracksuit bottoms with elasticated waists, a sure sign that your sex life is no more.. but then none of that matters, when one is a "pensioner". As Michele's rant points out, a pensioner can be anyone from around 60 to over 100. "That's people with up to 40 years between them, all lumped together... No one would expect a five-year-old and a 45-year-old to wear the same frock."
All true. But I wish I was enjoying the old lady's memoir more. It seems sad that a woman who was once a courageously unconventional thinker now muses on misapplied lipstick and Max Factor facecream. It's unpretentious and honest, and the affectionate side of her bohemianism is a delight, but was it really the most interesting memoir the Costa board received? Or is this an example of what Marlene Dietrich called the Deathbed award: doled out indulgently and with a fine sprinkling of cynicism.