I’ve been in London this weekend, once again launching my book into the world. I was a bit grumpy about having to spend most of Friday on the train because the weather was so beautiful in Barrow – very sunny and warm and the trains from Barrow to Lancaster have no air conditioning. They get very hot and stuffy very quickly. When I arrived at the train station, the server was down, so I couldn’t collect my advance tickets that I’d bought online. The woman in the ticket office told me to get on the train because the guards were aware of it, but having come to the attention of train guards before I wasn’t having any of that! The train guards in Barrow might well be aware of the server problem, and maybe even sympathetic, but the guards on the Virgin train from Lancaster onward might not. She agreed and gave me a letter which I was able to use to fend off the guards in their ticket hunts. You may note a certain sarcasm in my tone when I talk about guards on trains. I wouldn’t like to tar all of them with the same brush, and I have met some nice guards, particularly the ones that are on the Barrow-Lancaster train, but broadly speaking, it seems the further south you go, some of them seem to become a bit power crazed and frankly, unreasonable. Anyway, sure enough, I did get a bit of grief from the second guard, from Lancaster onwards, who chided me for not having my ticket, even though I explained that I couldn’t get the ticket because the server was down! And even with my special dispensation letter as well! Grrr.
Anyway, I got to London and made my way to Brixton where my friend Jill made me steak and chips for tea which was lovely, and then on Friday evening I ran a writing workshop for Malika’s Kitchen, which was really enjoyable. The group seemed really nice and wrote some interesting stuff, and I even sold a couple of books. I was kind of dead on my feet by the time I got back so I went to bed quite early, semi-determined to go and do a park run in London.
I ended up going to Burgess Park Run because the one nearest to Jill’s house which I could have walked to, was cancelled because there was another event going on. Jill has a vast knowledge of the bus and tube system of London and told me which one to get. When my alarm first went off, I did think why am I doing this – but once I got going, it was actually quite exciting! The only other Park Run I’ve done apart from Barrow is Skipton, when I was Ilkley Poet in Residence, and that was actually quite stressful because I was driving around trying to find it – it was a bit of a nightmare. This was really easy though and I got talking to a couple of runners who were really friendly. One of them was called Tessa and she was running at a similar time to me (well actually about 40 seconds faster but who is counting?) so I tried to keep up with her. She just pipped me at the post as I was hovering between letting my awful competitive nature show or being a nice person. So that has taught me a life lesson! Don’t procrastinate! I was really pleased with my time as well – 22.42 which is a new 5k PB for me – my Barrow Park Run time is 23.02 but Barrow is very hilly and the Burgess course is completely flat. Afterwards I was so hot and I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting on a bus so I decided to run back to Brixton with the help of my sat nav on my phone.
I got a new pair of trainers last week – courtesy of Active Cumbria. They were running a Young People’s Poetry Competition a couple of weeks ago and my rather persuasive running buddy Emma asked me if I would be willing to judge it. I did it as a favour for Emma and then on Thursday she turned up with a swanky pair of trainers as a thank you present! I’m telling you this now because I tried them out on my Park Run jaunt and am pleased to report no blisters, although my toes did go bizarrely numb when I was running round. The shoes weren’t too tight or anything, so not quite sure what happened there.
After the madness of the launch in Ulverston with the soul band and runners and poets and music teachers and pupils and randomness, it was actually quite nice to do a more ‘normal’ launch. Jill started off the evening and did a great set of poems, and then Kathryn Maris, whose work I love read some poems as well. I love Kathryn’s dry humour in her poetry and I could have listened to her read all night.
I won’t name everybody who was at the launch, but it was really nice to see some of my friends from down south who I don’t get to see very much usually. I was really touched that people like Ben Johnson and Hilary Hares had made quite big journeys to get there. The other big surprise was my mum and dad turning up out of the blue. My mum bought ANOTHER copy of my book – I don’t know who she is giving them to – but she swears she has sold the other 7 that she bought at the Ulverston launch.
My mum and dad came and met me at Euston today and I dragged them along to Judd Books which I have to visit whenever I come to London. They have a great discounted poetry section and they often get a lot of American poets that you can’t get elsewhere. I always make a point of going now if I’m in London. I spent £50 but that was about 12 books so I have now satisfied my book buying urge for a while.
Last week seemed to fly by pretty quickly. We have had quite nice weather so every morning I’ve been sitting outside drinking a cup of tea. Just being outside and able to hear the birds puts me in a better mood for work. I didn’t know I would like the garden so much though.
I’ve not managed to do as much running as I would have liked this week. I did an 11 kilometre one on Tuesday and a sprint session on Thursday but no long run because I’ve just not had time to fit it in. I also had an end-of-term concert at one of the primary schools I work in this week so that took up another evening.
Today’s Sunday Poem is by Jayne Stanton, who is another person I’ve been meaning to ask for a Sunday Poem for a long time now. Jayne is one of my loyal attendees on the residentials that I run. I think she has been to all three at Grange over Sands and it has been wonderful to see her poetry developing over the years and her confidence in her own writing growing.
Jayne’s poem Clothes horse, comes from her pamphlet Beyond the Tune, which is published by Soundswrite Press. It was published in 2014. I’ve chosen this poem for a number of reasons – I love the first line which takes me back to my childhood. Although we didn’t have a wooden clothes horse, we had a plastic clothes horse and I remember sitting in front of the fire and giving way inch by reluctant inch to the clothes horse. I like that everything in this poem has a personality and a will of its own. The clothes horse ‘stole our heat’. The clothes are ‘line-dried failures’ and stll-limbed charges’. The electric fire ‘coaxed the steam from dampened spirits.’ Even the washing-up bowl is a pool. I also like how the poem describes a very specific moment in time in great detail and how it moves from inside the house ‘on winter nights’ to ‘On summer days” in the second stanza.
Jayne Stanton is a teacher, tutor and musician from Leicestershire. Her poems appear in Antiphon, Ink, Sweat & Tears, London Grip, Obsessed with Pipework, Popshot, Southword, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar and others.
She blogs at http://jaynestantonpoetry.wordpress.com/
I hope you enjoy the poem! Eleven minutes late today – not too bad!
Clothes horse – Jayne Stanton
On winter nights, this wooden workhorse stole our heat.
its frame spread wide to shoulder the line-dried failuers.
Our double-bar electric fire purloined, it coaxed the steam
from dampened spirits, raised our hopes of extra layers.
On summer days, we pitched its A-frame on the back lawn,
lazed in army blanket shade, picnicked in coarse comfort –
a seersucker cloth, requistioned milk and wafter biscuits served
from doll-size plastic ware. Teacup pinky fingers raised,
we made small talk. Our stiff-limbed charges cooled,
skinny-dipped in a makeshift washing-up bowl pool