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Back From the Debatable Lands


I feel much restored after days in the reiver country beyond Hexham. I had a good bout of solitude, then two nights with another writer. I lay in a great brass bed and wrote in my notebook. I ate long breakfasts. I miraculously wrote about five thousand words. I watched Bad Girls. I walked through fields filled with forget me nots and bluebells. I ran away when I saw cows or horses. I ate blueberries, raspberries, kiwi and avocado.

I came back yesterday, and went to listen to Jo Shapcott and Subhadassi reading at the Central Library in Newcastle. Subhadassi was launching a new book with Arc Press called Peeled. It’s his first book, and a great occasion for celebration. What huge achievements these little books are! They take years to write, and they are full to the brim of work lovingly made, each word hand grown, organic, and then picked with care. Yet they are so slim! Jo read a poem called Her Book that she had written to wish a book of poems good luck, for as she said, once a book appears it’s on its own out there, struggling to be seen amongst so many other volumes. It was lovely to hear Jo reading about her experience of chemotherapy. I felt a profound sense of belonging, of someone talking about a world I had felt quite isolated in. She has written a wonderful poem about baldness and its benefits.

It was a happy reading, the kind I most enjoy, with a great quietness and sense of listening. There was an immense rainbow in the sky last night. I wonder if it covered all of England? Then the wettest , fattest rain you could ever imagine.

I just finished The Lady’s Maid by Margaret Forster which is a very satisfying read, and also A Child In Time by Ian McKewan…I don’t usually like I.M ‘s writing much, but this was rather moving, and a beautifully constructed book.

Our basement is like a ancient cave, filled with swamps, pools of water, puzzled looking builders who look more like miners down the pit shovelling piles of blue clay, but my partner, who know about what stops houses falling down promises me that it will soon be a room from which I can sit and survey the blossoming garden. Can’t wait!