Freezing fog is both beautiful and unpleasant, a combination I think shared only by the word 'syphilis' which sounds like a flower fairy while actually meaning a disgusting degenerative disease causing dementia and death. That's about ten-out-of-ten in unpleasantness, whereas freezing fog is probably only a one-to-three, depending on whether you're walking through it or trapped on the motorway in it.
A poetic week, with a double dose on Wednesday. In Bath, lunchtime readings From Around The World at the BRLSI uni-verse, compèred - for the final time after her heroic 3 year stint - by Nikki Bennett. International in a very English way, the main theme was snow and the overall mood sombre. Rose Flint's celebration of winter lifted us finally:
This is ascension time -- sing!
Let the light hold you through the ice.
And in the evening, Frome's Garden Cafe hosted the annual festive season Poetry Cafe/Merlin tie-in event, with pantomime tickets for best poem on the theme of winter flights of fancy, as picked by Nikki Bennett, going to Margie McCallum and Carola Cooper. Fourteen performers gave us some wonderful fantasies, from a witty skit on aged Boy Band reminiscences by Muriel Lavender to Phillis Higgins' touching tribute to her personal superhero Peter-Panman. And for me the most surprising flight of fancy was Wendy Miller-Williams presenting me with a gift of gorgeous glasswear, from all the team, as a farewell present for my festival involvement. Completely & utterly unexpected, and I'm deeply appreciative.
Over in Bristol, Word of Mouth promised "a night of extraordinary urban voices" with 'achingly funny' Byron Vincent introducing 'mellifluous' Shagufta K Iqbal, 'charismatic, entertaining but thought-provoking' Ben Mellor, and Kate Tempest - 'without a doubt one of the best performance poets in the country.' Who could live up to hype like that? Well, each of these did, and then some. One of the best nights of poetry I've seen anywhere in the country, achingly funny and thought-provoking too. I couldn't put it better myself so I won't even try. Byron says there'll be another Word of Mouth event at the Bristol Old Vic basement in January - can't wait.
Bath's Oh What A Performance night - yes folks, that does make 4 poetry events attended in 3 days, the kind of excess that in Ireland prompts the question "catholic or careless?" - was actually more of a music night, with the rather wonderful Golden Eggs creating richly textured arrangements of familiar carols with cello, keyboard, guitar, percussion & trumpet that were quirky enough to charm even the most jaundiced listener with an allergic reaction to the seasonal C-word. Which is usually me. They were joined by Brian Madigan, better known in his solo persona as A Band Named Brian who promised and delivered a genuine 'folkclub first': four minutes of total silence as he recreated Cage against the Machine, the anti-X-Factor chart contender. Highlight of the evening for me though was his stunning performance, with Beth Porter, of the Pogues christmas classic Fairy Tales of New York - an absolute Live Lounge cover winner.
And finally... I can't let the week go by without homage to Corrie's 50th birthday celebrations, which went with a bang as the street exploded from the cobbles up, topped by a tumbling tram, cleverly contriving the climax of all its lingering loose-end storylines: the secret-lover baby, the secret-lover bride, the secret-lover body-burier stalker, the secret child at the pub, the secret chocolates at the Kabin... all the stuff of an ordinary suburban Soap Street in fact. Corrie is unsurpassable for its huge swings from melodrama to farce - even in the hour-long live episode with several residents bundled off to the morgue, mad Mary managed like the porter in Macbeth to interject surreal comedic notes - but it packs a profound emotional punch: there's a scene between Sally and Kevin in the darkness of their kitchen when she quietly reveals the terrible truth that Molly mouthed before she died, which is as good as any television drama I've seen and very much better than most.