Sunday, 17 December 2017

Not So Smol Pupper Now

Who are all these people?

Doin' me a closer look

Why can't I sit up with them?

Oh well, I can have a snuggle with me mam and dad 

Heckin' tired now
Being a pupper is hard work, frens

Sunday, 10 December 2017

A Wandering Star

When Son the Elder said he was doing some extra work in Cardiff on the weekend, the first thing I did was check the weather forecast and it was going to be 🌞, all day. Fantastic. I would drop him off and spend the day in Rhossili with Ted the dog. 

Except that Ted went and pulled a muscle in his foreleg and went a bit limpetty, and this being Ted, it was hard to tell how much it hurt and how much he was hamming it up. And then the weather forecast changed to ⛅ with a possibility of ⛆. OK, I'd leave Ted at home with the Northerner and maybe venture as far as Llancarfan and Llantwit Major. I'd been meaning to visit the churches there for aaaages.

Except when I looked at my diary, I realised that every single day between now and 22nd December was at least partially taken up with either Work or Doing Things For Other People. And the forecast had turned to ⛄. So I decided I would drop Son the Elder off and return home to Do Some Of My Own Stuff. While I Had The Chance. And maybe just go over an hour earlier than necessary 
for the return leg to have a little wander around my past life.

I crept out of bed at 4.45am and did bathroomy stuff without putting the light/fan on so as not to disturb the Northerner, and emerged to ... porridge and tea, made by the Northerner who had been disturbed after all, bless him.

I was back home by 7.30am, just as day was dawning. 

A bath, some present sorting and several batches of mince pies later, I was just driving past our house to make the return journey to Wales when I spotted the Northerner in our front garden. He was wrangling a beautiful but extremely headstrong border collie/husky cross, while Ted stood on our massive oak table and barked crossly through the front room window. 

Now, being a Northerner is a bit like being a super-hero, at least as far as Northerners are concerned, but all the same, I couldn't really leave my partner on his own with a spooked stray called Star and a jealous, neurotic border collie with his snoot out of joint, so I got out of the car and located a spare lead. One phone number on her tag was unobtainable. The other wasn't answered. I know the local dog warden and she definitely doesn't work on Saturdays so I couldn't call her. The RSPCA won't attend calls about stray dogs. And ringing 101 can take forever, especially if the person on the other end wants your date of birth, National Insurance number and inside leg measurement. 

My phone beeped. 'Hi Mum - we've wrapped early. Can you come and pick me up now, please?' 

I called Son the Elder back and carted a by now furiously discombobulated Ted over to my parents' house for safe-keeping. As I drove back along our road, I heard a shout and saw a worried-looking woman with damp hair. She was trying to run in slippers. 

'Have you lost something?' I asked, getting out of the car.

'Yes, my dog, Star. I was having a shower and it all went very quiet and she was gone.'

Once that was sorted, I was off to Cardiff in the dregs of the light. There was just enough to glimpse how beautiful the snowy hills of the Ebbw valley looked as I whizzed past Newport on the M4. 

Son the Elder was waiting in the appointed spot. 

'Fancy a little look inside the Cathedral?' I asked, desperate for some seasonal light and something - anything - in the way of distraction. 

'No, let's go straight home. I'm knackered, Mum. I've been up since five, you know.'

Yes, I did know. Funny, that. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Grayson Perry - The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! - Arnolfini, Bristol

One of my favourite pieces of art ever is God Please Keep My Children Safe by Grayson Perry, which I saw at the Love exhibition at Bristol City Museum back in 2008. More than any other artwork I've encountered, it epitomises for me that obsessional and terrific  love with which your life is weighted the instant you feel your baby shift inside you. (I don't mean terrific in the sense of 'mahvellous, dahling'; I mean 'Causing You Terror'. Because in that instant you know that your life is utterly bound up, one way or another, with this new one for the rest of its duration.) 

Suffice to say, I've been really looking forward to seeing the most recent exhibition of Grayson Perry's work in Bristol - The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! - at the Arnolfini. If I were still writing my arts column for the local paper, I'd have been down there to see it a lot earlier in its run, but I'm not and I'm glad, too, since the note to one of the exhibits - Puff Piece - says that GP can't bear to read any of the reviews of his shows these days, as the good ones affect him just as much as the negative ones. (Not that he would have come across said local paper, of course, but even so.) 

Anyway, I'm just going to post photos to remind me of my favourite bits, and of the fun I had watching other visitors to the exhibition react to the pieces on display. 

Battle of Britain

Battle of Britain (detail)

Kenilworth AM1

Matching Pair 

the Remain pot 

the Leave pot 

Marriage Shrine

(The outside trying to break  in. This is through the gallery window, not an exhibit.)

Alan Measles and Claire Visit the Rust Belt

Jeremy Corbyn holding Claire's hand while Theresa May and Boris Johnson look on 

Trump kissing Alan's hand as Melania Trump and Nigel Farage look on

The Digmoor Tapestry

(More obtrusive outdoor scenery through the windows)

Red Carpet

Our Mother

Puff Piece (detail)

Luxury Brands for Social Justice

'rich people deserve equal rights too!' ... 'war and poverty are bad, I learnt that at university' ... 'super expensive knick-knacks against facism' ... 'all my ideas are recycled' ... 'liberal values sold here' ... 'this art makes me a better person' ... 'I've read all the academic research about empathy' ... 'remind me what it it we're protesting about' ... 'let them eat conceptual art' ... 'I'm off to buy a very serious piece of political art' ... 'poor places are so much more authentic' 

Animal Spirit and Object in Foreground

Death of a Working Hero (detail)

Shadow Boxing (detail)

Reclining Artist

Long Pig

What I like best about GP's work is its layered quality, which is most evident in the pottery and tapestries. There is always so much more going on beneath the surface, and the longer you look, the deeper you see. It's something I always try to do in my poems, and I left the exhibition more determined than ever to achieve that.

Grump of the Day was that the perspex boxes protecting the pottery and sculptures, whilst necessary, were horribly smeary and in need of a good clean. 

Final Joy of the Day was the discovery that having waited years for one to come along, a second Grayson Perry exhibition, featuring six tapestries inspired by Hogarth's The Rake's Progress, will open at Bristol City Museum on 31st March 2018. 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The Kennet & Avon Canal Christmas Floating Market 2017

A technical hitch meant I had to forgo the jaunt I'd planned on the return journey from my recent trip north. No matter; a day later I found myself in Bradford. 

Bradford-0n-Avon, that is, for the biannual - and now verging on traditional - Floating Market. 

I was too busy browsing - and nattering to my friend, Cathy - to remember to take many photos, which is a shame as it is such a photogenic event, and a rare sploge of cheeriness on a grey December day. Nevertheless, here's a few of my few. 

One of the loveliest things of the day was carrying the Satchel of Poems and people coming up to me on the towpath because they recognised it as the work of Skyravenwolf. And letting it commune with its makers for a while. (I was so busy buying mistletoe earrings that I forgot to take photos of the very busy Chris and Jinny.)

Another lovely thing is that it is becoming a place to meet up with friends whom you wouldn't normally get to see during the pre-Christmas rush. Cathy bumped into three friends, and we had coffee and tea with my oldest friend, Liz, and her sister, Alison. And we saw Sue Meddings, and maestra singer-songwriter Lou Bell and her daughter, Ciara, probably for the first time since the last Floating Market. I forgot to take photos, however. 

Here Sue and Cathy are consternating with Dru after a muddy dog jumped up at Dru's books and - yes - got mud on them, after which the owner hurried away without making good the damage. Fortunately, the mud wiped off with diligence and care and no undue loss of stock, but it was still A Poor Show on behalf of said dog owner. (I did take a photo of this.) (The cleaning up, that is - not the culprit.)

Cathy and I also took a walk up the towpath, under Sainsburys bridge where I saw my first kingfisher a few years ago and as far as the next one. 

No kingfisher today ... 

... though we did have a very close encounter with a hot-air balloon.

The Floating Market is a very lovely thing. Can't wait for the next one at the end of July. 

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Ye Grete Derknesse

Every autumn equinox, I run through a quick refresher course on how my trusty Lumie Bodyclock works and tell myself it's going to be fine this year - I'm not going to be such a big baby about winter and Ye Grete Derknesse, I'm going to light candles and wrap myself up in colourful handknitted blankets and get out somewhere beautiful and sustaining on every single bright and sunny day that is granted to us. 

But some days there seems to be no daylight at all, just continuous dusk and it's exhausting. And the bright days always seem to fall when I'm due in work, or I've agreed to drive my mother half way across town to buy a packet of Cathedral City mature Cheddar cheese because it's 30p per 350g cheaper in a supermarket there than it is locally. ('That's six shillings!')

So has it been this November. Instead of a bit of easy living post poetry festival, there's been the torment and tedium of funding bids. Two days out arranged - to Dartmoor and South Somerset - didn't happen through no fault of anybody's. And though these last two weeks there has been much chauffeuring of Son the Actor to be done - about 450 miles altogether, to a beautiful location the other side of the city with stunning autumnal walks - it's all been done under cover of darkness, the first round trip through the evening rush hour and the second last thing at night. We've seen a total of four foxes and something that looked smaller and somewhat malevolent in the headlights as it pushed its way through a hedge. Gollum, or a svart maybe. 

I did manage to fit in Simon Armitage's reading at the Bristol Poetry Institute. He read mostly from his new collection, The Unaccompanied, plus some older poems, including an extract from his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which I love. If you haven't ever been to hear him read, you are missing a treat. Armitage is the Jack Dee of poetry. His poetry-reading persona during his introductions is downbeat and self-deprecating. Then come the poems which are engaging and often very funny. I think I must have heard him read half a dozen times over the last - I don't know, 15, 20 years? - and I enjoy it as much as I ever did.

Between chauffeuring stints I also fitted in the launch of Anna Bianchi's book Becoming an Ally to the Gender-Expansive Child. The evening consisted of readings, conversation and questions, and I gained fresh insights, not just about questions of gender and identity, but privilege too.
I was expecting an intimate evening, but I've never seen the upstairs room at the Greenbank in Easton so packed, which was fantastic and a great tribute to Anna, the quality of her writing and her indefatigable heart. Oh and there was a big urn for the making of tea too. Inspired. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

O Brave New World

I'm going to call her a collie-doodle, but apparently the correct nomenclature is bordoodle, which seems like a wasted opportunity to me. 

Anyway, Lucy is gorgeous and she is eight weeks old and she has already padded her way - and tumbled headlong - into our hearts. (Sorry, Ted. Or rather, Uncle Ted. Just remember that love is not like a box of Bonios, it's infinite, OK? And you won't have to see her every day.) 

OK, I am going to do a snooze now

Promise you will not do anything interesting ...

You did a murmur! What is a murmur? Can I do a murmur? 

Maybe I'll just stay awake and not miss anything.