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Archive for September, 2016

I’ve been holidaying in the South of France for two weeks with my family, eating palourdes and salad nicoise and violet ice-cream; seeing Matisse’s chapel, Picasso’s pottery and Miro’s sculpture garden; and visiting places like Antibes that I associate with my favourite novelists, Graham Greene and Scott Fitzgerald. Rich and I took turns to sit with Cate in shade whilst the other built sandcastles and paddled in the sea with Gruff, and whilst I was with her I reread Tender is the Night, about the charming, tragic Divers and their circle on the Riviera, the atmosphere of which Fitzgerald conjures faultlessly (the ‘deferential palms’; the ‘bright tan prayer rug’ of a beach; the sea ‘green as green milk, blue as laundry water’; the ‘bottle of wine while a faint wind rocked the pine needles and the sensuous heat of early afternoon made blinding freckles on the checkered luncheon cloth’…)

We flew into Nice because we spent a couple of evenings with friends who have a beautiful new house in Vence, and threw a truly glamorous Cote D’Azur party. It was hard not to recall darker things though, walking along the Promenade des Anglais, even in blinding sunlight. Toys were piled high in tribute to children who died; armed police scanned the beaches. Our luck was thrown into relief. Tiny glowing jellyfish called mauve stingers dragged through the translucent waters.

Yesterday I flew back and went straight out to the Forward readings. Sadly two weeks of relentless rosĂ© drinking meant I was too exhausted to mingle and sloped off afterwards, but it was lovely to see Roddy Lumsden, who has been missed in London lately, and it was a terrific reading. It was definitely the year of the long poem, with standout performances for me being Harry Giles’ funny, ferocious attack on our culture’s values, Melissa Lee Houghton’s intense ‘I am very precious’ and Sasha Dugdale’s radiant winning poem ‘Joy’. A lot of love in the room for Vahni Capildeo too when she won – I haven’t read the book yet, and ADORE Denise Riley so was hoping that might win, but I was surrounded by whooping Capildeo fans who clearly knew better and must order it straight away…

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