I am about to go and teach an Arvon Course. These courses are run in isolated and beautiful places, in this case spooky Heptonstall in Yorkshire. Sixteen students spend five days with two writers, eating round a long wooden table (plenty of garlic bread, cream and salad dressing) and discussing writing around log fires, or doing workshops, or walking up the valley, talking. I’m running a course with the poet and playwright Amanada Dalton, who is a lovely warm person, so I am really looking forward to it. Lesley Glaister is our guest, and she’ll be reading one night. Funny to think of sixteen nervous people packing their bags, about to embark on a week of strangeness. This course is called ‘Starting To Write’ so we won’t have lots of novels to read, just very nervous people! I feel very at home at Arvon. There are plenty of sofas, and you can open the fridge and eat what you like. I hope it doesn’t rain all the time though. I am sick of this sluggy month. Everything smells damp.
It didn’t rain in Edinburgh at Jackie Kay’s bust unveiling. It was gloriously sunny as a group of family, friends and business men and women watched Jackie reading an explosively lovely poem, with such aplomb that the bust unveiled itself prematurely in a snatch of wind. It was a great project…they’ve done twelve bronze heads of Scottish writers, lining a lovely lake just outside Edinburgh. In the same business park there are poetry bus shelters ! Afterwards we stayed at a posh hotel and floated about in a rooftop spa. It rained then, but it didn’t matter, as the water was warm, and the icy rain felt nice on one’s face.
I am feeling ok, longing for a good writing stretch, although running Arvon’s makes you feel like writing so I don’t begrudge it. I want to get on with the novel and the manifesto. I have been enjoying making the BBC film. Last week we filmed me and a stone cutter, Peter, looking at headstones in Old Jesmond Graveyard, talking about lettering and who memorials were for. It’s an interesting process, this film. I also like doing the video diary, which is by my bed. I tend to do it in the mornings, so all my hair is sticking up. I found myself talking about those cancer adverts on the tv when they say “I’ve got the all clear!” and how irritating that is for me and several other million people who know that the ‘all clear’ is out of the question. Can’t they come out of the consultation room and say ‘It’s SHRUNK A BIT!”
Otherwise, been watching musicals to get inspired for the manifesto…Guys and Dolls yesterday. Now I must finish my packing.