I believe you should always leave your audience on an upper, so let’s get the sad stuff out of the way first. On Friday evening, my lovely old cat, Manjo, was killed on the main road at the top of the lane from our house. In the eight years we had him, I never knew him to go up there, always left his cat flap at the front door and turned right to go down the hill and into the fields by the neighbour’s house. On Friday he thought he would explore. We found him, carried him home and buried him, our best friend.
Manjo was called Manja when we first got him, but he was such a bloke we changed his name to something more masculine! We ‘inherited’ him from my son, Michael, when he went to live in Cyprus for three years. We never gave him back, and if Mike had tried to get him back he would have had to fight us for him. When he came to us he was a bit of a wild child, ruled the roost with a well honed claw, didn’t take to being made a fuss of. At the time we had another male cat, Daffy, so that didn’t help Manjo settle in either: they were always hissing and spitting at each other and couldn’t be left in the same room without human referees. But eventually Manjo got used to living with us. He was a character, as all cats are, not very athletic, preferred to climb onto the sofa than leap up, walked knock-kneed. We saw the claws less and less, and he even let me rub his tummy sometimes; carefully! He taught us that trust isn’t a given, it has to be earned and we earned his trust. Now he’s gone.
We live on the first floor of our quirky Saddleworth cottage. His muddy footprints are still on the stair carpet where he used to come in through the cat flap and run upstairs, same way every time, tucked into the left hand edge. I’ll have to clean them off. One day. Not yet though, it’d be like wiping him out completely!
Thankfully, this week hasn’t been all bad. On Monday I drove to Lincolnshire to visit my sister and stayed over until Tuesday evening. It was her birthday midweek so we drank wine, went shopping, did lunch. It was a nice break and good to see her before she got really old on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were the best days of the week for weather too, and reassured me that winter is over and summer showing its face. It was so good to be wearing tee shirts, cropped jeans and sandals. By Friday I was back in wooly tights, warm jumpers and my DMs. So yeah, I think that proves we’re in a British summer. Come back sun, all is forgiven.
On Wednesday I got back to poetry. It was the May meeting of the East Lancs and Pennine Stanza in Clitheroe. The theme of this meeting was ‘Achievement’; or sonnets. No-one seemed quite sure, but that’s OK because we got a mix of poems about achievement with some well crafted sonnets. Even some sonnets about achievement. It was a good session, whatever, with some really able poets. It’s good to go to that group, of which the organising is left to Theresa and Jo and all I have to do is write a poem and turn up.
As co-ordinator of the East Manchester and Tameside Stanza, I have been lent a digital voice recorder by Tameside Radio. We are doing a series of poetry readings on the lunchtime slot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays which will last until the poetry spring dries up and the recorder is to save us actually going there three times a week. We met in Ashton-u-Lyne library on Thursday afternoon to record some poems. There were only three members present, so it was a very relaxed afternoon. Unfortunately, I did something wrong with the on-off switching and only three poems were retained of the dozen or so we recorded. Damn and blast. So now we’ll have to meet up again to re-record the ones I managed to lose. I think I’d better have a mini-go at home to make sure I’m technically brilliant (well, at least only slightly tarnished) by the time we meet up again next Thursday.
On Saturday I drove up to Preston in the pouring rain for a writing workshop at the Lancashire Archive, using historical records as a stimulus for creative writing. That is a fantastic resource that too few people know about. Your county records office stores millions of fascinating historical documents that are there for you to read: wills and inventories, coroners records, assylum records, letters, photos…etc, etc. And not just for historians or historical novel writers. But for you. Yes, you! Get to your county records office, where-ever you live, and check it out. Fantastic stimulus for poetry. I found a satirical pre-Reform Bill (1832) electioneering poster that could have been written last week, it is so relevant to the political situation today. I’m trying to rewrite it as a Facebook page, with contemporary ‘likes’. I’ll keep you posted. I also found a sad story (they’re all sad stories) in the asylum records for Lancashire Moor Asylum: a woman admitted in 1887, 30 years old suffering from ‘Melancholia and intermittent mania’. In the admission notes she was asked how many children she had. ‘She burst into tears and answered none’. Hello, doesn’t that give you a clue. Today she would have been counselled and offered IVF; in 1887 she was admitted to the asylum and never got out: still there in 1907, anyway, when the record ran out. Now if that doesn’t whet your appetite for a story, I don’t know what will. I’m working on a poem from the ‘inmate’ photo of her, taken in 1895, when she looks as sane as you and me. Well, me at least.
So that’s another week of poetry and related stuff. Today I’m off to Old Trafford for the last match of the season: the presentation of the Premiership trophy and Sir Alex’s last match in charge. How much would you pay for that? And I’m getting it courtesy of my friend Joan’s son. It’s his season ticket, but he’s living in Chicago now, so doesn’t often use it. So I’m off with Joan for lunch and footie. Must go, have to find something red to wear.