Sunday, September 28, 2003

Walking through town, I saw a wooden model of a spiral staircase on sale in a furniture shop for over £1,000. It must have been about two feet high and I couldn’t see any purpose to it at all. It didn’t even look nice. Couldn’t help thinking how disturbing it would be to have this in your sitting room, and how it could fit into a short story. Maybe someone could give it to their partner and it would be the death knell to the relationship, never getting anywhere.

There’s a snippet in the newspaper today that is too weird to put into a story. Apparently a male thief dressed as a woman was caught after being pursued by a pensioner on a lawnmower. Sounds like a dream for headline writers.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Bloomsbury catalogue came in the post this morning featuring Something Beginning With. I looked through it twice before finding the right page, despite the fact that it was marked quite clearly. I think in a strange way I hadn’t wanted to see it – if I’m honest, the whole thing makes me feel sick with nerves.

I spent the day with other members of the Kent & Sussex Poetry Society in a workshop led by Moniza Alvi. We worked very hard – eight exercises in all, and enjoyed lots of lively discussion, not all of it about puddings. It’s always interesting in any teaching group to see how quickly we revert back to how we must have been at school – we had the class swot, the naughty girl in the back row and the one student who didn’t do any of the exercises ‘properly’ but ended up with something uniquely their own. Sometimes all these roles were in the same person! One of the most enjoyable exercises was one based on a Billy Collins poem – READING AN ANTHOLOGY OF CHINESE POEMS OF THE SUNG DYNASTY, I PAUSE TO ADMIRE THE LENGTH AND CLARITY OF THEIR TITLES. Moniza suggested we make up our own titles. My favourite of the ones I came up with was ENRAGED ON THE SCHOOL RUN, I CAN’T TAKE MY HAND OFF THE CAR HORN. Think I might work on that one further!

Talked with one of the women poets there about whether you ever got to an age when you were too old to cry about love. Maybe it’s real maturity – but neither of us thought it was something to look forward to.

The same woman told me about a girl she had known many years ago whose parents wouldn’t let her read books at home because she was ‘too clever.’ The girl even had to read the local newspaper standing up in the hallway in case anyone discovered her.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Went to teach at Bridgewardens College at the old dockyards at Chatham in Kent. I had read the biography of Samuel Pepys by Claire Tomalin over the summer so I got there early and walked round for a bit trying to work out where he had lived but couldn’t, so I went to the new outlet shopping centre instead, feeling like a failed culture buff. Then I ended up buying so many cheap chocolates from the Cadbury’s shop there that the bag split in the car park and people had to help me scoop them up. An appropriate quote arrives through the internet – ‘A writer is like a bag lady going through life with a sack and a pointed stick collecting stuff,’ Tony Hillerman.