To London and the World of Stonehenge exhibition

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog, mainly because I’m feeling a bit burnt out with lots and lots going on in my life. I’m in a crazy work place at the moment. I made the decision to (mostly) spend each morning working on my writing and that decision has been something of a game changer.I think of it as investing in the future as apposed to working for no money. Acknowledging that I need to write in order to move projects forward, get funding, sell books etc is what i want to do allows me to give myself permission to take myself seriously as a writer. I find I am falling back in love with writing and feeling so much more capable and competent as a writer. I tend to not go on social media, not listen to the radio or watch any tele on a morning, it’s given over to the writing so that I can, as Picasso once said ‘leave my body at the door’ when I enter the studio, or in this case the bedroom I converted to an office which has, mysteriously, become a junk room too. However, this also means that there is no space in the afternoon for any real down time or breaks – all my work has to be done in that space, so I spend Sunday’s meticulously planning my work week to fit in to this tight schedule. I’m working on the next phase of Spelt magazine too, which is a really big growth step with two big moves towards expanding the Spelt platform, which will hopefully result in greater diversity and a genuine place for people to access the skills they need to get their work published. I can’t do that without more time to work on Spelt, so I am back to applying for funding for it, which if you’ve read earlier blogs you’ll know I absolutely hate. I wish I could just have a face to face interview. Oh well, them’s the breaks. I don’t want to say too much about the plans right now, but next month work really starts on the big thing that I am simultaneously excited by and terrified by, whether we get funding or not, so I shall enjoy telling you more about it then. Alongside that there is a brand new course starting in July, which I’m planning for, as well as some online and in person events to plan for, plus the course I’m currently running which I am enjoying immensely. You can find out about stuff I’m doing by following this link: courses and workshops. A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to run a workshop for Scarborough MIND, which was my first in person workshop for a while, and it went beautifully with a bunch of really engaged writers. The week before that I read at Filey Literature festival with the lovely Ralph Dartford. It was a small audience, but that made it a lovely way to return to the stage. It was quite magical, we had the door open to the street and the swifts were zipping up and down while we were reading our poems. I’d forgotten what thrill it was to do that. Next week I’m running a workshop for Crossing the Tees and also doing an in person reading in Darlington at the library. Tickets are available and it would be lovely to see you. It will be the first time I talk about the new collection and also the non fiction book alongside reading from the current collection and I am thrilled and excited but also quite nervous about it. My anxiety is proper peaked lately making things I should just out and out enjoy feel incredibly challenging.

Last week we (Chris and I) finally made it down to London to see the World of Stone Henge exhibition at the British Library. It is very difficult to get away anywhere due in part to my crazy work schedule, but also because our elderly dog can’t really go in kennels anymore and gets stressed around strangers so we are reliant on people we know sitting him while we are away. My parents very generously agreed to come and sit him a few times over the course of the day, and that meant we could get away. My dad’s just finished the first four rounds of absolutely brutal chemo and is now in the scans and appointments part of this journey before the big scary operation. We grabbed at the window of opportunity when he felt well enough to come and watch films at our house, and off we went early doors to get to London at lunch time. Some how I had failed to notice that it was also half term and also the week of the queen’s jubilee celebrations and I was dreading the crowds, but actually, goodness, what a thrill. I am showing my privilege here, because I am able bodied and vaccinated and feel ok being around people, though not crushing crowds, as long as I am taking as many precautions as possible. Everything at the BM was beautifully organised. It was ticketed with only a certain number of people let through at any one time, so there was no crushing around the exhibits and you could take your time. As soon as we arrived at King’s Cross and I felt that unmistakable London vibe; a mix of voices and languages and styles and music and smells and street food, I felt invigorated. The exhibition itself was just incredible. I am so glad I got to see it. I’d been wanting to do a research trip to the BM for the new poetry collection, and the non fiction book, so it was great to be able to combine a little day out with that very necessary part of my creative practice, which is to be physically present around the things I’m writing about. I was awed. I felt connected to the people who I have been writing about in a way that is hard to describe. This object in particular (below) which was found just outside Scarborough, at a place that I have visited several times, a place that I have written about and whose people I have tried to imagine being near and being connected to, I found particularly moving. Its use is uncertain but most likely it was used as a lamp, or as a ritual offering bowl, the light passing through the carved holes. It is the first piece in the exhibition, displayed simply, elegantly, with a plain background allowing the piece to speak for itself. I feel like I know these people who lived near where I live, and to see object, held in their hands, see it all the way down in London, in this enormous museum with all those people looking at it, admiring it as the opening feature of such a beautifully curated exhibition made me emotional.

Because the exhibition was so well organised I was able to linger around the artefacts and look at them from every direction, getting up close to the backs of them to see the way they were worked. One day I dream of having access and permission to engage with and look at things like the Star Carr headdresses (picture of one above) with no glass between myself and the object. Perhaps on a future project this might be arranged. But the next best thing is this elegantly put together exhibition that allows space and time to look at the objects owned by our ancestors.

There is something quite beautiful about writing the poems for the new collection. I am feeling, with these last series and sets of poems about ancestry that I am somehow drawing the collection together, like a string being pulled taut through the eyelets of a cloth bag.

After the exhibition we went and got some fabulous veggie street food and a glass of wine, then flung ourselves back on the train and managed to get to York at 9pm. Chris then managed to accidentally drop his bag on the track which meant we caused all sorts of bother retrieving it and didn’t get back to Scarborough until gone eleven, and then had to get a taxi back to our village and Scarborough being Scarborough, this was a challenge. Home by midnight, bed, needing a day off to recover from the day off.

I’m looking at my planner for July and seeing some nice big gaps and hoping to have time around Spelt to get more writing in, more paid writing too, I hope. But for now I am in crazy work world and loving being around creative people.

Thanks for reading this rambling blog!

Until next time


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