It’s been all quiet on the western front recently, but that’s mainly because I’ve been busy. Amongst other things, last week I went along to the Buy Art Fair at Urbis. I also took in the preview events for this year’s Manchester Literature Festival: Lucky Voice at Tiger Tiger, where poets Patience Agababi, Caroline Bird and John McAuliffe celebrated National Poetry Day karaoke-style; and an audience with Anita Shreve at Dancehouse. And in addition, I went up to Lancaster for the weekend, where I narrowly escaped being poisoned by some dumplings – though that, as they say, is really quite another story.
Today I was over in Liverpool for the North West Independent Publishers’ Showcase, which is just one of the many events making up the new Chapter & Verse literature festival at the Bluecoat. It was great to see so many of the region’s independent presses and literary magazines represented there, taking in everything from local history to radical poetry. I also enjoyed a varied selection of readings from a number of the writers they have published including Dominic Berry, John Redmond, Michael Carson and Rebecca Goss.
Tomorrow, of course, will be the first day of Manchester Literature Festival, complete with the Manchester Poetry Prize Gala in the evening. Today (when I wasn’t enjoying new writing and publishing, of course) I found myself wondering what exactly one wears to a poetry gala. I had a brief flirtation with buying a pair of leopard print tights I saw in Topshop, which I thought might go with my favourite black dress, but then the doubt swept in. Could I really pull off leopard print tights or was it going to be a point-and-snigger situation? Were leopard print tights the kind of thing one really wears to a poetry gala? What shoes would go with them? And was £9.00 just a ridiculous amount of money to pay for tights, leopard print or otherwise? The questions were piling up, Carrie Bradshaw-style. In the end, I came home on the train with boring grey tights – 2 pairs for £4.99 – and no idea what to wear tomorrow night. Tights? Leopard print? What do we think? If anyone out there in the aether has a solution to my sartorial dilemma, I’d actually love to hear it.
But actually, the best thing that happened to me today didn’t have anything to do with writing, literature or publishing, or even, as it happens, anything to do with tights. For various boring cancellation-related reasons, I ended up getting the train from East Didsbury to Manchester Airport this morning, and then catching a train on from there to Liverpool Lime Street. Whilst I was waiting for the train to Liverpool in the rather depressing waiting room at Manchester Airport, a sudden movement caught my eye, and I noticed a sparrow hopping around my feet, pecking hopefully at invisible crumbs. I felt a bit concerned about the sparrow: I wasn’t sure how it had got into the waiting room, or how it was going to get back out through the automatic doors; but then suddenly I realised that there was actually a whole family of sparrows inside the waiting room. They were everywhere – lined up in a row on the beams in the roof, flitting from table to table cheeping to each other, perched on the back of a chair whilst scrutinising a man eating a Danish pastry. They were quite obviously having a great time. None of the other people in the waiting room (mostly cross-looking commuters, or people who were miserable because they had come back from holidays in the sun to damp, cold Manchester in October) seemed to notice the sparrows at all – even the man with the Danish pastry completely ignored them in spite of their best efforts to charm him into sharing his crumbs – but I sat there very happily watching them for about 20 minutes. I felt as if I had been unexpectedly transported to some tropical paradise where exotic hummingbirds might fly in and out or perch on the table, except of course that everyone looked colder and crosser than they probably would have done in a tropical paradise. But the sparrows were still the highlight of my day.
Lovely sparrow photograph by Rob Wallace via Creative Commons
I am lying low at the moment. I am under a blanket. I feel distinctly blanket-ish.
I am doing a lot of reading. I have recently been reading William Morris’s very strange utopian novel News from Nowhere and H.G. Wells’ possibly even stranger Tono-Bungay. I am currently reading The Suburban Swindle a new book of short stories by an emerging US writer, Jackie Corley, which I am reviewing for Bookmunch. Next I will be reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist by Robert Tressell.
What I am not doing much of is writing. My blog has had a lot of extra traffic since being shortlisted for the Manchester Blog Awards, and whilst it’s great to have so many people stopping in for a visit it’s also strangely unnerving. It makes it harder to write things. I think I may be suffering from a case of “blogger’s remorse”. After all, it’s one thing to write a blog when you know that not many people (and certainly not many people you know in real life) are going to be reading it, but it’s quite another when lots of people (many of whom you know) are reading it, and having opinions about it, and you will also have to go out in public and acknowledge it as your own. My superego is going slightly crazy about all this (and ever since watching Slavoj Zizek’s “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” recently, I can’t help envisioning my superego as looking like Groucho Marx, which makes it extra weird). It is barking a lot of words at me in a very loud voice. Some of the words are things like “ridiculous” and “stupid” and “inane” and “twee” and “annoying”. It’s basically telling me that everyone is going to point and laugh at me, and then I’ll do something hugely embarrassing, and probably that all my clothes will also somehow fall off as well, in a general nightmare-type way.
However, I am not going to be defeated by my superego, even if it does closely resemble Groucho Marx. In fact I am going to dare its disapproval, so just watch this space…
I really like these “advice to sink in slowly” posters designed by recent and emerging graduates of University College Falmouth for the purpose of passing on advice and inspiration to first year students. A poster is given as a welcome gift to every new student when they enrol, but anyone can buy them on the advice to sink in slowly website. I’ve just treated myself to one of their posters (which arrived accompanied by a beautiful double-sided print by David Mathews and Temujin Doran) but it was very difficult to choose just one from the selection of goodies on offer!
Posters shown are by Jane Laurie (“Be Yourself”), Temujin Doran (“Learn an Instrument”), Carys Williams (“Collaborate”) and Cat Hayward (“It Will Be Worth It”).
Autumn is really here now. I can smell it in the air. I like autumn. I like crispy early mornings, wearing boots and woolly tights, brisk walks, falling leaves, cosy jumpers and eating sustaining things like stew. I especially like that ‘back to school’ feeling of really getting down to business, a certain sense of purpose that comes along with the new stationery – fresh notebooks and really sharp pencils. It’s a good time of year.
I have to admit though that I’m not such a fan of the torrential rain we’ve been having of late. Or of the particularly unpleasant cold which has struck me down this week – I’m writing this from my sick bed. Still there’s worse things than lying around all day feeling slightly sorry for myself, eating soup, re-reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (the perfect book for chilly autumn afternoons), and looking forward to an evening of watching entertaining TV like ‘Dog Borstal’ in my pyjamas.
In other news I’ve got a review of Taking Pictures by Anne Enright up on the lovely Transmission blog at the moment where there are also lots of other good things. Check it out here.
Some good news to brighten up a particularly grey and damp Manchester day – this blog has been shortlisted for the Manchester blog awards! It’s been nominated for the categories of ‘best new blog’ and ‘best personal blog’. Hurrah!
And hurrah also to all the other excellent blogs which have been shortlisted for this year’s awards, and especially some of my personal favourites – nine chains to the moon, every day I lie a little, chicken and pies, diary of a bluestocking and quit this pampered town.
You can check out the full shortlist here or there’s also a list here on delicious, though I have to admit I’m still not entirely sure quite what that is.