It has been a week full of firsts and festivities. Gruff is 1, so there was a picnic with a wigwam and cake, and trips to the aquarium and the Carter’s Steam Fair on Peckham Rye, where we had our future told by the ‘Old Betsy’ Machine and Gruff rode on a carousel.
He’s also started nursery two days a week, which has made me a bit nervous and emotional – I don’t think a harrowing trip to see King Lear at the National helped, being as it is the great tragedy of poor parenting. Actually it was also the first time I’ve seen King Lear performed, even though I studied it for A Level and at Cambridge, and so many of its images have stuck in my head and snuck into my poems. This version was brilliantly brutal and bleaker than the vision of utter, howling, existential bleakness I’d anticipated. The director, Sam Mendes, has a theory about the disappearance of the fool in act 3 that even I wasn’t dark enough to think up. I could scarcely see through the sobs by the time Simon Russell Beale was asking: ‘Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life / And thou no breath at all?’
Yesterday was also – at Field Day in Victoria Park – the first festival of the season for me, and my first time watching The Pixies, a band whose lyrics of pure, ecstatic angst lit up my teenage years:
I live cement
I hate this street
Give dirt to me
I bite lament
Shame there was no Kim Deal, of course, but they were still amazing, and there was much jumping, and the sun was warming our plastics of beer all afternoon as it ought.
I love festivals. Next month I’m on the bill at Latitude talking about ‘The Pram in the Hall’ (looking forward to Sunday’s music lineup especially, with Haim and Tame Impala and The Black Keys). And I’m also on at Port Eliot performing from Ovid’s Heroines in the Idler Academy tent. If you’re at either, do pop along to see me and say hello. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a poetic escape without the camping, The Poetry School has just announced its holiday-themed summer school -‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun’– which will run from the 21st to the 25th of July and includes sessions on all sorts of alluring things like wild swimming, as well as a session from me called ‘The Poet’s Phrasebook’.