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The Last Day of January 2005


Here I am again. Sorry I have been a bit quiet. I hope no one has been worried. It’s entirely due to my latest obsession with knitting which has absorbed me for weeks. I have knitted three things now ( a baby’s scarf, a teenager’s scarf, and a shawl ) and although they are holey and incompetent I think my state of mind is much calmer. I have also spent much time in wool departments, smelling and touching lovely wools, and saying words like alpaca and fair isle. I want to make a strange blanket next. I think I might be more of an arty knitter than a crafty one. At least, I’m not very good with patterns. My attitude is very similar to my feelings about writing actually.

Last week I had my first injection of the new drug, faslodex) in my poor bottom! The nurse said the hypodermic was terrifying , and I got myself into a right lather worrying about it in advance, but it didn’t hurt at all thanks to Emla cream. And now I am feeling much, much better, although that could be coincidence as it’s very early days. I’m also having a course of hypnotherapy on the NHS that I am enjoying very much. I have never been very good at relaxing, but what with my affirmative tapes and knitting I feel like a sponge pudding of peace.

I’m getting very excited about The Manifesto For A new City that I have been working on with Northern Stage. This is opening at the end of March, and it’s a night of songs and opinion about my city and how it has developed. It’s a rant against property developers and capitalism really. Predictably, I want everyone to take up knitting and eat porridge and ride a bike. I want us to do more than consume coffees in expensive bars. But that doesn’t mean I don’t approve of the lovely Sage Building (did I tell you I have joined a choir), or the Baltic, or the elegant bridge. I just feel that my world has gone out of control when planning permission can be obtained to build a glass tower of luxury flats that blocks the council tenant’s in the Byker Wall’s view of the River Tyne. I know that I am not the only one who thinks this…there are lots of people opposing all kinds of things, but the manifesto is my own personal utopian rant. I shall put up dates on this site soon.

Last week I went to Cambridge for a Royal Literary Fund day, as I have become a mentor for an emerging novelist, and all mentors and mentees met for a day. I am proud to be a mentor, though I still don’t really know how to write a novel myself. There is no easy formula. Still, I hope that I won’t do any harm, and I always found that being allowed to talk about writing to a listener made me feel excited and positive, so I shall do my best. The main thing is I love my mentees work, and long for the next episode.

On the way back from Cambridge I got on a scuddy little train with the poet Gillian Allnut who is also a mentor, and guess what? The queen was on the train too! It was the most silly, unlikely thing. So we travelled with her Maj to Ely, when we got off. I mean she had her own carriage and police and everything. Fancy! What shall I do with this strange experience?

If you live in the North East, I am reading at the Blue Room in the Bridge Hotel this Sunday at 8.00 p.m. It’s a good night, and there’s some other brilliant writers on …Paula Cunningham, Helen Burke, Tess Hudson, and musician Steve Jinski and his band. I shall probably read my new instructions poems, which are pouring out of me like volcanic lava!

I am about to read Small Island..the book that has won two prizes. I am nervous about starting it. It must be so very, very good!

Otherwise, I am listening to Nina Simone, growing narcissi on the mantelpiece, and trying to work out how to write, or type onto bandage type material as I want to make some ‘poetry bandages.’

I hope you are all well out there! Didn’t we manage January well? Ha Ha hypotherma and cold bones..you can’t get me!

Just Feb to go and then nothing can stop us!