I saw the sign below on the seafront tonight. It might not be as clever as I think it is but it's certainly more interesting and provocative than the adverts they usually have.
I was very nervous about reading at Wordplay last night. I was reading second, following the incredible Spliff Richards, which made me even more nervous. As it was the audience seemed to enjoy themselves and I felt OK once I was reading (although onstage might not have been the best place for me to start improvising edits of one section). Rachel afterwards described me as a ‘solid’ performer, which is, I think, a compliment. It was a lovely evening, also featuring the charming Bristol poet, Nathan Filer, who reduced one woman in the audience to tears (of laughter, fortunately). Thank you to Rachel for inviting me to read.
Here’s a video of Mr. Filer with his poem Perfidious Albino:
The new issue of Incorporating Writing is now out (downloadable from here). It was guest edited by the Tight Lip team, who asked me to contribute an interview with poet Gary Goodman. I spoke to Gary towards the end of last year at the Royal Albion hotel.
Editing the interview into an article was interesting work. Some fascinating responses were cut to allow the article to flow. Halfway through we were interrupted by an accident outside, a young woman knocked off her bicycle by a learner driver. It was a disturbing thing to watch and seemed as if it ought to be recorded, but never fitted into the interview.
Today is St. Hilary's day, traditionally the coldest day of the year. If medieval belief is correct, things should get warmer from now on.
The best way to find perfect scenes to photograph is to come out without your camera. I visited a friend this evening to cook pasta and drink cocktails (I will definitely be drinking sidecars again). When I'd arrived she'd just finished mopping the kitchen and told me not to go in, the floor was wet. Rather than suggest I get my shoes, she dried the floor… with a hairdryer. She leaned into the kitchen holding the doorpost, driving off the water to making a path to the cooker and the sink. It would have been a perfect photograph.
"Best thing is," she said, "The floor will be lovely and warm."
I meant to post this before Christmas, but somehow missed it in the excitement of Winterval. As mentioned on Sparks blog, the video footage of my reading at Sparks 2 is now on youtube:
I've not actually watched this, as I can't bear hearing to my own voice (something I need to get over, particularly if I except other people to listen to it), so let me know what you think. No comments so far which is probably a good thing as youtube commenters aren't known for their good manners and intelligence.
Also online is Vanessa Gebbie reading her story 'Gas Gangrene'. Thanks to Jo Horsmann for putting these up.
I recently found a cache of old school reports. The most interesting one was from the village school form teacher I had at 11:
"His creative writings reveal a very vivid imagination. His stories are full of good ideas and phrases but James lacks the self-discipline to develop and shape them for the reader's benefit. His understanding of the main rules of punctuation is good but he does not always apply them to his own work."
Some people still claim my stories are self-indulgent and that shunning the word 'that' isn't a sign of talent. It's weird to think: all the years of education since then and I haven't improved. My goal for 2009 is simple: to summon the self-discipline to finish my novel. I think the punctuation's good enough though.
Growing up, I wasn't much of an athlete. I wheezed when I ran and came in last every race, which is why my love of running has been such a surprise. I don't really mind the bad days so much because I'm still getting over the novelty that I run at all.
Of course, there's one obvious challenge with running. Every year London marathon runners were paraded on Blue Peter. It felt like taunting to me since I was as likely to run a marathon as I was to climb Everest or whatever other wholesome exploits were celebrated on the show.
But the more I've run the more I've thought: I could do that. In the Runner's Handbook, Dick Traum is quoted as saying "Anyone who honestly takes the time to train can finish a marathon. You don't have to be much of an athlete, just patient and disciplined." The idea seems delightfully unlikely based on the child I was but I've decided to take the plunge.
I'm now 3 weeks into the training program and it's going well so far. I'm hoping for a time between 255 and 270 minutes and seem to be on track so far. It's been hard work, but I'm very excited. I only wish I could go and visit me at 13 to tell him what I'm up to right now. He'd never believe me.
I'll be doing about ten minutes early in the evening. Rather than doing a single long story I want to read lots of very short stories, ranging from 50 words to 200 words long. The stories themselves are all written, but framing them within a performance is proving interesting.
The great thing about Wordplay is the size and variety of the line-up. Also appearing are the talented and charming Nathan Filer, Sam Chara, and Phillipe Barnes and Tom Phelan. I hope to see you there!