←Back to Julia's Diary

Poetry Feasts and Some Delirium!


I think I have had every side effect known for radiotherapy now, from itchy ears, to lack of concentration, to fatigue and migraine headaches. It’s not been much fun, but today I feel like a ship that has survived a great storm, and is still floating.

On Thursday we had the Poetry Feast in the ambient, shadowy libraries of the Literary and Philosophical Society. This library was Grahame Greene’s favourite of all the libraries in the world, and it is a very particular and unusual place. It has not been refurbished, or computerised or even taken over by the National Trust. In fact, that’s quite a miracle, as it is still a working library, used by real people not relics. It attracts eccentric intellectuals and astute older women. It still serves hot chocolate and biscuits, and until recently I think one was allowed to smoke there. It has the feel of a club, or a different, parallel world. This is where we had our Peter Greenawayesque feast around a huge table, with poets reading new poems about food. I wore my Outer Mongolian Hat ! I thoroughly enjoyed myself. In the middle of an odd week, it was like landing for a while on an island of books.

There were other islands too. Earlier in the week my friend Robyn Hitchcock came to play in Newcastle, and we had a brilliant time listening to him, along with a whole load of fans that I had never seen in Northumberland Street. His new CD Spooked was recorded and produced with Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings in Nashville. Often one doesn’t like the stuff friends do, but in this case I am a real fan. It’s very sensitive, memorable music, and I think Robyn gets better and better, more refined, more passionate, more tender. That night we stayed up very late, and although I no longer drink much, it feels like a wild excursion just being out and about. I am going to do it more. I have rather alot of plans….to walk from Alnmouth to Holy Island along the beach, to get an electronic bike that goes up hills by itself, to book some time in a flotation tank, to fly to Paris for the day, perhaps to join a choir (not completely sure about that last one, never been great with groups).

I am feeling a bit like never going to the hospital again, because it just brings me down. It’s not that everyone isn’t very kind and helpful there, it’s just that I am not sure that anything they do or say there really helps. I suppose I need the blood transfusions, but do I really need the next load of scans? Isn’t it better not to know?

Next week I am interviewing the writer Xin Ran at Durham Lit Fest…I have really enjoyed her books, and I am trying to think of interesting questions. At the moment I am really enjoying Memoirs of A Geisha. I don’t know why I never read it before..it’s just wonderfully written and I can’t stop thinking about kimonos. I’m through with genre fiction now…..I want books that help me travel!