It’s been a particularly rich ‘bardic week’.Wednesday night my friend Ola and I performed our show ‘Tales of the Desert, Desire and the Red Thread’ at the Bristol Story Cafe, held above the funky wholefood shop, La Ruca, in Bristol. I started things off with a bit of Rumi, then my Garden of Irem story, finishing with Phaethon and the Chariot of the Sun’, a Greek myth which explains how the deserts of the world were created. Ola then stepped up to the plate to regale us with the tale of the Woman who gave birth to the Moon – a story from her collection, ‘The Firekeeper’s Daughter’. Mine were inspired by my novel, The Burning Path. Escaping Bristol, we wended our way back to the genteel suburbs of Bath.
On Thursday I caught up with my friend and co-writer, Terry James. We listened back to the recording of the Dymock Poets Story read-thru – a week on. It was magical, hearing our words brought alive by the ‘company’. Lots of exciting emails have been whizzing back and forth recently about famous directors and actors who might become involved. Can’t say any more than that at present!
Friday night I treated my partner to a mystery night out – taking her to see the master storyteller Abbi Patrix and his talented percussionist partner Linda Edsjö at the Playhouse in Cheltenham – part of the mega Litfest on at the moment. A small entourage of us went over from Stroud, in Fiona’s ‘bardmobile’ – following the moon along the scenic Birdlip route. While climbing to our seats in the stalls I commented to an elderly lady heading in the same direction: ‘This literature lark keeps you fit!’ She replied ‘Nothing can keep me fit!’ It was AS Byatt. We got chatting about her new book Ragnarok – which she was talking about the following day. She was a charming lady – unpretentious and approachable; as was her fellow Booker Prize winner, Ben Okri, who also happened to be sitting in the same row as AS, two rows down from us. Afterwards, enjoying a post-show drink and discussion in the bar, I bumped into him on the way out. We shook hands and had a brief discussion about the wonderful show, which I called ‘Shamanic’. ‘The perfect word for it,’ he said. He asked my name, and what I did. He had a lovely graceful presence. Meeting two writers I admire in one night – I went home happy!
The next day I popped into town and enjoyed the atmosphere of market day – bumping into friends old and new on the High Street – feeling I am lucky to live in such a lovely, friendly place with a vibrant, creative community, stunning countryside and great pubs! Later, I paid a visit to my local, the Crown and Sceptre, joining the Saturday afternoon crowd watching the match. I supped my Budding in its mug and perused the papers – it’s one of those pubs where you can have a quiet read in the corner and no-one thinks you’re an alien with two heads. Along with their weekly nights of ‘stitch ‘n’ bitch’; Up the Workers Wednesdays; bikers & poker night, they also have the occasional arts event – eg a film show with live soundtrack or the up-and-coming book launch. I talked to the landlord Rodda about holding one their for my imminent book, Turning the Wheel.
That evening I went to the Lorca in England finale at Whiteway Colony Hall – which had links with the Spanish poet and his Civil War comrades in the Thirties. It took some finding along the dark backroads – the weird no man’s land that is the ‘Cheltenham triangle’. Eventually we pulled into the carpark in time to hear the jazz – Lorca’s poems set to music, against the backdrop of an impressionistic ‘Lorca-mentary’ made by a local film-maker. In the summer, a competition for the best Lorca poem in translation was held. Tonight the shortlisted poems were read out – by the entrants who could attend (one had come from Paris), or by local Rimbaud, Jeff Cloves, and the judges – two American poets, flown over especially for the event. The suitably international winner was announced (an Italian living in France). Another well known local poet, Philip Rush MCed the whole event in a witty and informative way – a cool school-teacher daddy-o. The rioja flowed as we hobnobbed with the crowd of poetry-lovers afterwards. It’s not often one goes to a bilingual poetry reading – and has a good night. The whole thing wasn’t so ‘worthy’ as to be dull – it had a slightly anarchic air to it. The archive footage of the Wall Street Crash and soup kitchen queues, the spectre of Fascism and the fopdoodle of the media made the whole thing eerily resonant. One could imagine Lorca being at home with the protesters around the world who took part in a global anti-austerity/corporate greed demos today. Power to the People!
And today – Sunday – there is the Stroud Short Story night at the SVA. Words galore! What a place to live!