Sunday, 6 March 2011

Kings, Collies, Clevedon, the Wordsworths and World Book Night

I wish every week was like this last one.

Wednesday night I ventured to Bedminster to see Richard II at the Tobacco Factory – an excellent production, as always, with an outstanding performance by John Heffernan as the deluded and decadent king whose eventual self-knowledge is all the more moving for his former folly. One day I would love to see each play in the tetraology one after the other – Richard II, Henry IV Parts I (one of my O-level set texts) and II, which contains the funniest scene I’ve ever seen in the theatre, and Henry V, which has so much resonance for my uneducated war-veteran father that I would hold him up as an example to anyone who thinks Shakespeare irrelevant.  The Bristol Old Vic put on the two Henry IVs back-to-back some years ago and that was hugely enjoyable, but the whole sweep of story would be even better.

Thursday it was Can Openers at the Central Library, the guest poet this time Ros Martin. As usual there was an eclectic mix of poems.  Piece of the day for me was Dru Marland’s, about her border collie, Bessie.  It’s no mean feat to write an unsentimental poem about a pet; this one is touching but hilarious also. 

On Friday, having despatched both my poetry manuscript and the contract for my novel to Ronnie and Dawn at Indigo Dreams, and had a look at Dru’s progress re the artwork for the latter, it was off to Clevedon in her Morris Traveller - the perfect ramshackle vehicle for such a genteel watering-hole.


First, we visited the Sheela-na-gig at St Andrew’s, Clevedon, who was looking simultaneously acrobatic and self-possessed: 


Then, as the church was locked, we followed Poets’ Walk around the headland to Clevedon Pill (the poets in question being Coleridge, and Tennyson whose friend Arthur Henry Hallam, for whom he wrote In Memoriam, is buried in the church).  It was a sunny spring-like day and the views over the mud to Worle were magnificent.  Dru’s a great person to jaunt with because she knows stuff.  I’ve always envied people who can identify birds at 1000 paces and recognise their songs. Now, thanks for Dru, I can pick out the the yaffling of green woodpeckers and the lovely bubbling call of the curlew. 


Back at St Andrew’s the organist was practicing, so we sneaked through the door.  Unfortunately he’d almost finished and told us so, whereupon my brain immediately went AWOL and I didn't see anywhere near as much as I'd have liked, but apparently the church is open more often in the summer.  I only wish I’d listened to exactly when.   

Then on to Seeley’s Bookshop as Dru had some books to drop off.  What an amazing emporium!  It clearly hasn’t changed at all since the 1970s, inside or out.  The fittings, the flooring, even the stock is dated – when did you last see an old-style Dymo machine on sale?  


 Back to Bristol feeling as if I’d travelled 16 miles down the coast but decades back in time.  Before taking my leave of Dru, we stopped off in Shirehampton to see what she describes as  ‘the Co-op where the Wordsworths stayed’.  And it’s true, look!


Alack, another black hole in my Heducashun!

In Durdham Down Bookshop, whither I popped to pick up my copies of ‘The World’s Wife’ for World Book Night, I got talking to the owner, Kathryn, and she offered me a literary evening for my poetry collection when it’s published.  Pinch me someone, quick.

Finally it was off to Chepstow yesterday in the company of my old friend, Liz, for a poetry reading in the Drill Hall by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke – a very pleasing bit of synchronicity considering I was giving away 48 copies of the above mentioned collection.  Both Gillian and Carol Ann were very obliging in person, though I did cringe a little when the latter asked me how I’d settled on ‘The World’s Wife’ as my first choice of book for World Book Night.  George Washington-esque to the last, I blurted that actually, ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ had been my first choice, on account of having autistic offspring and being keen to do what I can to raise awareness of the condition.  To her credit, our Laureate laughed heartily at this, and I was able to add, swiftly, that on the whole, I much preferred poetry to prose and it had been in no way disappointing to be able to scatter her poems far and wide. So hopefully I won't get sent to the Tower.

And I came away with eight signed tomes to intersperse with the others, so that some lucky recipients will get an unexpected bonus.  Though it’s going to be hard to part with this one:


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