Harvesting A Map, Over the Fields

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A small band of friends and family took a walk Over the Fields yesterday, to help me harvest the new poetry map. A glorious late September afternoon, close to the Autumn Equinox, traditionally associated with the second harvest…perfect timing.
We met at the church and were greeted by the vicar, Kevin, who was very generous in allowing us to wander around the beautiful church that is in his care, even letting Techno the Great Dane have a nose inside, and letting the children have a go on the church organ.

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We rambled down the hill into the valley; along paths, over and under bridges, by the river and through fields, stopping at various points to read poems. Thank you to Dad’s friend Roger White, who grew up and played in the fields too. He read us two pieces of writing he had published back in 1960, which was a great addition to the occasion. One about the Hogsmill River, published in his school magazine, and the other, a small clipping from the Surrey Comet, a news story about a local ‘incident’, which took place in 1959…

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Thank you to the family and friends who have helped me to make this new map, and who have been so kind and generous with their time, skills and support. Thanks to Bill Mudge, who recently took photos of me over the fields as I was finishing the map and taking a last walk there before signing off the final proof at my friend Mel’s studio. (Mega thanks to Mel- the map wouldn’t exist without her) Bill has kindly allowed me to use his photos, and a couple of them are on my web site. You can find more of Bill’s work here – the photos of me and Mel are part of his project 20 in 15.
The map is officially ready to find its way into the world, and with a bit of luck will help people wend their way around this patch of ‘green’…maybe you will be one of them…?
You can buy the Over the Fields map HERE, right now, and the first 25 people to order one will also get a FREE limited edition postcard (1 of 50) with a brand new poem which is also connected to this area, but not on the map… Your journey begins here!
There may be other walks – please ‘like’ my Facebook page for updates.

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‘Nature-ish’ Family Poetry Workshop at Kingston Environment Centre

I’m really excited about this workshop and have been designing new writing exercises and ideas for families to try out. The title came about yesterday, when I was at the park with my son, looking for the first conkers of the season (see below!). We were talking about Autumn, and what it meant to my son who said: “It’s the most Nature-ish season, Mum.” As this workshop is all about the words we use to describe our experience of nature I thought I would borrow this lovely thought…and lo and behold…Nature-ish it is! I hope to see you there…

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Facebook event here

This event is part of New Malden Arts Festival which takes place from 7th – 20th September and promises a wide range of events and activities for people to get involved in. More info here.

“Paradise haunts gardens…” Derek Jarman

I have no idea how long I have been thinking about going to see Derek Jarman’s garden- but it’s probably more than the twenty years since he died. I finally made it last Wednesday; drove from Rye, where we were staying for half term, on a persistently drizzly and grey day, through the marshes and strange flatness of Camber and Lydd. Across the pylon-plotted horizon with the odd caravan park nestling by their giant electric feet. And then without knowing until I saw it, there, a yellow framed, black stained timber building loomed into view through the mist and rain-spattered windscreen of my car.

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With the BBC film crew van tucked into the side of the narrow road between the stretch of shingle and few houses, there on the right hand side, the garden. Here are some grey rainy shots of Jarman’s garden as it is now, twenty years after he died. As far as I know the house is owned by someone new but obviously aware and respectful of the legacy, and the garden remains. Below is a short film made by BBC Gardeners’ World in the first few years after Jarman passed on, where his partner is interviewed and talks about the garden, and which includes quotes from Jarman’s book…. now I have to go back when the weather is better in the Spring. Dungeness is magickal and it is easy to understand why he settled there.

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100 Poets. 50 Pairs. One Day. This Saturday #Camaradefest

Steven Fowler’s Camaradefest is this Saturday, 25th October, at the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green Road, London.

50 pairs of poets will present brand new, specially written for the occasion, collaborative works. It starts at midday, and I am reading with Jonah Wilberg. Jonah and I met on Steven Fowler’s Poetry School course in January this year, and we have been writing a piece for Camaradefest, mainly via email, over the last couple of months.

For more information and a squizz at the immense line up, have a look at the We Are Enemies web site. The event is completely free and runs all day and long into the evening, so please come, dip a toe in or bellyflop onto a sofa and stay for the whole day. It’s going to be fantastic!

The Big Fun Run for Gingerbread

A couple of months ago, in the midst of writing the MFA dissertation, I registered to run 5km around Crystal Palace Park, to raise money for Gingerbread. At the time it seemed like a good idea – running has become a necessary cog in my writing process, allowing me some head space and providing a regular dose of physical exercise to combat the hunched-in-front-of-screen posture I am otherwise prone to develop. If I’m going to run anyway I might as well do some good with it- and raising a bit of money for a very good cause by running around a park seems like a fine way to do it.

funrun1 (1)Last year I ran the 5km Treeathlon for Trees In Cities, trotting around the leafy environs of Battersea Park on a glorious September Sunday. A day where, after the run was complete, my good friend Liz, her daughter and my son, spent a few pleasant hours in the park, taking advantage of the activities put on by Trees In Cities. The kids also had a great time playing in the adventure playground, which has since been closed down by the Tories. This was one of the last staffed and subsidised community adventure playgrounds left since the those halcyon 70s days when places like it seemed to be a normal occurrence, not some kind of Small Persons Shangri-La…now it has gone.

I thought we could repeat our lovely day out in Crystal Palace Park, which is massive, and where I last spent time in 1990, to see The Cure play a gig. I wanted to show my son and my friend’s daughter the dinosaurs (there is talk of the park being ‘regenerated’ and the dinosaurs going) and to have a nice afternoon hanging out with my mate and the kids. However, on the day itself, it rained. When I say rained, I mean it poured relentlessly in a particularly wet and doggedly persistent manner. Friends and family had generously sponsored me to the tune of nearly £150 and I didn’t want to let them down, and I am fairly doggedly persistent myself when it comes down to achieving goals these days, so we got on with it.

The stairs at Crystal Palace railway station were having their own Niagra moment as we climbed up them, which did not bode well for what lay ahead…the park was grey, drenched and running with water. Liz and the kids camped out in the cafe while I found the start of the race, left my bags in the marquee, and tried to shelter from the driving rain along with the other runners, some seasoned, some in gaggles, dressed in superhero outfits, onesies, tutus and other bedraggled fancy dress. Everyone was smiling and during the three minute warm up there were hollers and whoops and ‘COME ON!’s to gee everyone into action.

funrun1 (2)The run itself was two laps around a designated route in the park, up hill and down rivulet-filled dale, some of it surprisingly steep. I am not a fast runner at the best of times but I kept my pace and finished one minute slower than my time for the Treeathlon. Not a bad result in all that rain. Liz and the kids were there at the end, cheering me on and taking photos. Then it was time to get changed and run for the train…the picnic and dinosaurs can wait for a sunny day…

Without Liz I couldn’t have taken part in the run at all, and so I need to say a huge thank you to her, for looking after my son while I ran, and for being such a supportive friend. And that’s also why I chose to raise money for Gingerbread, which offers vital support, especially now, for single parents. Being a single parent is hard work and we are all doing our best to raise confident, happy, healthy and well-rounded children on our own.

My son hardly ever sees his father, and although my own father is the most fantastic and supportive father to me, and grandad to his grandson, it does mean we don’t have that invisible mesh that seems to exist between families with two parents. The support net is different, and requires other people’s love and goodwill to take a turn at keeping an end taut from time to time. Friends are important, and I am lucky to have some amazing friends.

Thanks Liz

This was the last goal I set myself and now it is complete. The studying is done, and I have spent the last couple of weeks feeling overwhelmed and not knowing what to with myself, wondering how on earth I translate this five years of determined effort and academic study into paid employment. And how to balance this with being a mum and bringing up my son. One step at a time…one race at a time…