A busy couple of weeks – Sheffield and Swansea with the Somalian tour, Lancaster, Yorkshire and Cornwall.
Cornwall was for my birthday. A friend kindly let us stay in his flat in Mousehole, and it was the last weekend of glorious weather. On the first day we walked to Lamorna then ate scallops, and on the sunday we went to Zennor. I was burning to go there, partly because I’m a huge Katherine Mansfield fan, and that was where she joined DH Lawrence and Frieda in an attempt at communal living. Also, there’s a poem in my new collection, Changeling, about Zennor’s mermaid myth - a mermaid supposedly heaved herself up into the town to the church, following a man’s voice, and they fell in love. (you can read it in Southword magazine). I’d been feeling rather guilty about the fact I wrote a poem about a place I’d never visited (what if I’d made some terrible error?)
Anyway, it was wonderful – yellow gorse, wild hills, the most intense blue sea. We saw the mermaid carved into the bench in the church, and then walked across the headland, past the bay where she climbed up, to a wonderful pub called the Gurnard’s Head for sunday lunch…
I love to get out of London and see a bit of nature, and tend to use the phrase: ‘a good haul’ when I see some cool things. In cornwall our haul was: a slowworm, a dead shrew and a hawk killing a sparrow mid-air.
Then last week I was in Yorkshire, teaching an Arvon ‘Starting to Write’ course with Tobias Jones. Arvon courses are taught in Ted Hughes’ old home in Lumb Bank, just down the hill from Plath’s grave in Heptonstall. The house is in a valley, which was bright with red leaves, and filled with mist in the mornings. The first night was Halloween, so we talked about Hughes’ belief that words had a magical, often dangerous, power and then wrote spells.
The rest of the week rushed past in an exhausting blur of readings, sonnets, one-to-ones, open fires and red wine. And as he’s an expert on Italian corruption – check out his fantastic book The Dark Heart of Italy - Tobias was very good company in the last days of Berlusconi.
Then to Lancaster, to see my family who all live there now. I was honoured to help my four-year-old niece Rose with her first sparkler, and went to the RSPB marsh Leighton Moss with my mum. Our haul was: some red stags, teal, shovellers, a lapwing and a cloud of starlings that swirled from one end of the sky to the other.
In other news, my Any Winehouse poem features in the new e-zine of Digital Behemoth. It’s in the style of Frank O’Hara’s ‘The Day Lady Died’ (about Billie Holiday).
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