A while since I’ve posted. My days have been busy with childish things. My daughter, Cate, is nearly six weeks old, and I have spent most of my hours since her birth nursing and rocking her, or being interrogated by her serious gaze, whilst there has been a stream of visitors: friends and family and midwives and postmen loaded with cards and flowers and pretty dresses and soft pale cuddly animals and advice and bottles of gin.
Then there is Gruff, who was three last week, and is warming to his sister (he calls her ‘babe babes’) but has also needed lots of attention. Between tears and poos and sleepless nights, we have taken him to the seaside for rockpooling, made popcorn, ridden rocket ships at the fair, set up a den in our garden, bought his first pets (fish he called ‘Bang’ and ‘Bong’), and watched real caterpillars weave chrysalides in a jar on our shelf. We also had a bug-themed picnic for his birthday, with snail-races as entertainment (which seemed a sort of metaphor for this summer – both thrilling and slightly dull; the sort of fun where everything takes everything takes forever.)
I had my first child-free night out this Sunday though, leaving a row of bottles of expressed milk in the fridge to go and see PJ Harvey at Field Day. Despite the weather forecast predicting lightning, the heavy skies held back and she was wonderful – slinking and hunching around the stage in a black feather coat like a cross between Richard III and a fallen angel. Some of her refrains are genius and have looped in my head ever since (‘They’re gonna put a Walmart here…’ or ‘What if i take my problem to the united nations?’). I was very happy to hear the fierce 50ft Queenie live, which I used to shriek along to as a teenager in need of catharsis. But it was also a dark, dark set about the nature of evil and our own complicity and guilt: Words that Maketh Murder. The Wheel. Working for the Man. Down by the Water (‘Oh help me jesus / Come through this storm / I had to lose her / To do her harm’.)
Let England Shake felt horribly appropriate in these ugly, Brexit times:
The West’s asleep. Let England shake,
weighted down with silent dead.
I fear our blood won’t rise again.
England’s dancing days are done.
Otherwise, the one adult pursuit I have had plenty of time for is reading, as I can do it whilst feeding Cate. I’ve read some brilliant books over the last month: Olivia Laing’s haunting The Lonely City, Denise Riley’s Say Something Back (which I was pleased to see on this year’s terrific Forward shortlist, along with one of my poems of the year, the blisteringly good i am very precious by Melissa Lee Houghton). I’ve also read lots of stuff online at 3 in the morning – half-lit nightmare articles about Trump and bleached Coral Reefs and Orlando, or important new writing by Alice Oswald and Brenda Shaughnessy and Zadie Smith.
I don’t have much work scheduled for this summer, but in this snatched blog-post (which I have written a few lines at a time over several days) I should probably share some links. I do have one reading – I’m pleased to say the Arts Council has agreed to support five more Ovid shows, and the first will be at the Ledbury Festival on Monday 4th of July. I’m also going to be guest editing the next issue of The Butcher’s Dog alongside Sophie F Baker and Amy Mackelden- it’s one of my favourite magazines, and has an anonymous submissions process which I think will make it really interesting, so send us your work.