An Air of Fresh Breath
My bike needs a service. I’ve unhinged the front brake cause the wheel's slightlywarped. It’s an unhinged bike not unlike it’s passenger who wouldn’t have it any other way. To infunity and beyond.. I'll continue to ride my while ift fals apart beneath me. You may see me running down the high street with one wheel and a mangled gear cog, stillbelieving I am on the thing somehow.
London is growing smaller the more I ride. Todays run is thus. From home, through hackney and broadway market and onto Regents Canal. Then a twenty minute glide towards the Islington basin. Rest for ten minutes under a canal bridge while the rain guns the canal. It stops. Rain sounds like applause. Now I’m off the canal and up through a few streets of Gorgeous Georgian terraced houses winging it through Angel and coasting down the hill of pentonville rd into the Kings Cross and roadblock traffic. I swish through the traffic like water through a pile of rocks, this way and that, passing the British library and turning left to Bloomsbury where I try and pick up Michael Rosen’s book at Bookmark. It’s closed. Shoot.
From there I fly through another downpour Across oxford st down past Leicester square and onwards to Trafalgar square, through to Whitehall where I cut through to The Embankment and the Thames. Nearly there. I carry the bike upwards onto the bridge and across the thames where The South Bank awaits. It’s about One hour and fifteen minutes bike ride.
As I lock the thing to another thing. I run into Charles who is part of the security andhouse staff of The South Bank and we chat for twenty minutes about the world and all things. He is totally level headed and wise and the conversation is a breath of fresh air. He’s also a good laugh. Meanwhile people keep stopping and asking for directions which he gives perfectly – same with our conversation – he gives perfect direction. Even in the questions. . I take a seat at EAT (a chain that spreading like a breaded monster across London and await Melanie Abrahams one of London’s literature operators and all round good woman. I’ve asked Melanie to put together the tour of my book next year. I’ve alsoasked if London Liming can come to The South Bank for Christmas. She is wonderful and we have a great conversation and if all is well London Liming will be at the South Bank.
My previous literary agent calls me and I’m in a very technical conversation regardsto my contract with Canongate and it's relationship with her previous agency, when Fred D’aguiar walks past with his wife and three children. Fred is in the country to read at Liverpool’s WOW festival. He encouraged me twenty years ago and is in the acknowledgements of my first book Tender Fingers In A Clenched Fist. It’s as if he’s never been away. I hope we meet before he returns to America. He is based at Virginia Tech, the university of the massacre which has already faded from our memories. We laugh and he’s off for icecreams for the children. Then as I sit Carla Henry passes by she is an actor at The National in a play on at the moment and has been in a few plays ofmine over the years. She's from Mnachester and based her till November. I love thisplace. Melanie goes and Geraldiine arrives. Geraldine is the director of apples and snakes.
We talk and walk to the sixth floor of the festival hall for the opening of The Poetry Lbrary which is celebrated by an exhibition by Stephen Raw, a man who lives in Manchester and does the artwork for Carcanet Press run by Mr Michael Schmidt who takes pleasure incalling me Lemon. There is something very likeable about Lord Schmidt. A carcanet executive introduces me to a poem by Roy Fisher which astounds me and makes me want to buy the artwork, an excerpt laid into a book behind a frame. But then after much thought I realise that it is the poem I like and so shall buy the poems rather than the excerpt on the book behind the frame. Stephen Raw’s exhibition is interesting. Ian Hamilton Finlay remains the most admired. Raw knows a colleague of mine Liam Curtis who commissioned my work in both Majolica pottery and onto the streets of Manchester over fifteen years ago and asked me "Do you know Liam Curtis he works with poems in the street" and after my reply "yes I do and yes he does . Their mine". He disappeared as this was his launch.
I think the joy, for me, of the evening was meeting Ruth Borthwick the once literatureofficer of the south bank whom I have mentioned before is now working for Planet Poetry an organisation with a few hundred thousand pounds worth of budget, otherwise known as well spent public money, concerned with the promotion of poetry. Planet poetry is working with seven or so national organisations in poetry such as Apples and Snakes, The Poetry Society etc. It has an air of fresh breath about it. I was a little fraught at the launch and I am not sure why. Nothing to worry about.
Talking of fresh air, I leave. I get on my bike and swish back to hackney. That’s about eight miles in one day. The Journalist has made stuffed peppers with this rice stuff. Bloody gorgeous. Must get a copy of poetry review. It's the end of Thanksgiving Day in the US.