Archive for December, 2020

Festive Entertainments

History just keeps happening, doesn’t it? It seems like even in these locked-down months the world is still changing so rapidly outside. We’re still reeling from this weekend’s news and our Christmas day with the family being cancelled. It’s bitterly disappointing, and I found myself tearful at the weekend; that sense of the growing darkness again… Aside from home-schooling, one of the things I’ve found hardest this year about having young children has been the responsibility for keeping their spirits up, however I might be feeling inside. Every week I have to explain some fresh restriction on their freedoms, some rule-change, some new bad news. But I know we’re still a lucky family: we have each-other; lots of nice food in the cupboards; a tree covered with homemade decorations; a jigsaw on the go; a Radio Times with all our shows circled.

This weekend Rich made us a tapas feast and a delicious ham; we sang carols on our doorstep with neighbours; walked in the cemetery with a flask of gluhwein; smashed a gingerbread house. Thanks to my autumn cocktail hobby I have a well-stocked booze cupboard too, and have added Dirty Martinis, Boulevardiers and Shirley Temples (for the kids) to my repertoire.

Culture-wise Christmas is always full of great children’s content, and if you’ve read Fierce Bad Rabbits you’ll guess I’m looking forward to the documentary about Julia Donaldson, the drama about Beatrix Potter meeting Roald Dahl, and curling up with my kids to watch Zog and the Flying Doctors on Christmas Day. The National Theatre are also streaming their panto Dick Whittington for free from the 23rd which sounds fun. My bedtime reading to the children at the moment is very much in the cosy, nostalgia phase – I’ve just finished reading them my childhood copy of Winnie the Pooh and am mid-way through The Little Prince.

If I get time to read myself, I’m currently loving A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa – a book that mixes all my favourite things – lyrical non-fiction, literary biography, poetry and translation – in an original way that makes it one of my books of the year.

I’m finding it inspiring as my own new project, about clairvoyance and fear of the future – working title ‘Delphi’ – is also a strange hybrid thing at the moment that hasn’t quite found its form. I was very thrilled to receive a Society of Authors grant for it last week, which will hopefully mean I get to go to Delphi in 2021. As well as learning about Sibyls and Nostradamus, I’ve been playing around with the tarot (though it said nothing about Christmas), learning the I Ching (in a gorgeous translation by David Hinton) and following lots of astrologers on twitter who tell me Saturn’s move into Aquarius this week completes three years of relentless challenge and ushers in a new Air Era. Let’s hope so.

If you’re bored over Christmas and fancy writing yourself, do have a go at one of my Clare’s Poetry Circle workshops. I’ve finished ‘term’ now but they’re all still up, and I’ll continue to check the comments and hashtag if you want to post your poems up. The last one has a Christmas theme and is about rhyme. Thanks to everyone who has subscribed, shared and taken part. I’m not sure what I’ll do in New Year as it was a bit of an experiment – I don’t think I will carry on doing one every week, as it’s quite a lot of work, but as we’ll still be locked down (until Spring it seems) I might post up workshops less regularly. Let me know if there are any topics you’d particularly like me to cover…

Other links whilst I’m here: if you fancy a poetry podcast I was very happy to discover the Sugar & Dread podcast when I had a poem chosen by Jake Wild Hall and Amy Acre in episode 41 – it’s a great listen, also featuring Jake and Amy’s own poems and some interesting biscuit-based chat. Episode 42 is also a gem featuring Theresa Lola and Inua Ellams. The Push the Boat Out Festival have launched a mini-podcast series too, and one episode features me reading my festive poem, The Gift.

The Dead [Women] Poets issue of MPT is now out in the world, with extracts here online if you’d like a taster.

And one of the best essays I’ve read this year, Amy Key on my all-time favourite album, Joni Mitchell’s Blue.

Anyway, I write this on the solstice. Hope you manage to have a cosy week despite everything, and that the darkness is (fingers crossed) finally in retreat now.

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