I wake early and walk out onto the balcony overlooking Cardiff Bay. In a couple of hours time I will be on stage reading poems to five hundred people, it’s a contrast to this scene of tranquillity. The car is picking me up at 9am. At bang on 9am I am informed by text that I am actually reading at 1pm. So why did I travel from London last night to stay in this hotel. There’s been a cock up I can smell it.
There’s no tea and coffee in the hotel. I am now being picked up at 11.30am. I dial for a coffee. It costs me £7.50. Now I realise why there is no coffee nor tea in this four star hotel and spa. There is one way to describe that kind of manipulation – cheap. It is cheaper than a dingy bed and breakfast turning off the bath taps to save water. I make a note not to say anything as I pay my bill, such is my Englishness.
A car picks me up and takes me through and into “the valleys” half an hour drive away to the University of Glamorgan Sports Hall. A stage is erected and lights are positioned. Six hundred seats fill in minutes. Backstage I meet Nick Hornby who did the morning slot that Ishould have been doing. I am guessing he is wanting to get back to London on the train that I should be on.
I have a really good system called The Booking Form which means that wherever I am travelling in the world the booking form has all the details upon it. The event organisers hold their hands up to the cock up. I am pleased at least that noone is being overly defensive and that the mistake is admitted to. This is respect for the process and the artist. One great thing about being a sole trader is that you can smell institutionalised bullshit a mile away.
I walk onto stage introduced by charismatic Paul Blizzard of One Word radio. He is what you might call a spiv – a west London man of the Notting Hill variety, about 45. The taxi driver describes him as Rupert the bear man, because mr blizzard is dressed in tweed. He’s looking good. To a northerner like me he speaks with a plum accent. He is well travelled relaxed and honest. I like him. He greets me in Amharic “Tenestalyn?” and introduces me to Nick Horny the writer who is on his way. His PA from Penguin is from Manchester (university) and knows me – we have a mutual friend in London.Julie Ellis the co star in Ken Loach’s latest film.
In minutes I am on stage to make magic happen. And it does. All I am is a poet with somepoems. But I can hold an audience inside the poem. If I treat the poem with respect the “performance” will work. We go for a roller coaster ride. The thing about a roller coaster ride is that you don’t spend your time looking at the other people – I’m on it too. I am in the experience. When the roller coaster ride ends I want them to feel that they have seen or heard things that they’ve never seen or heard before. Poems have noise, whether whispers or screams. Emotion is sown into the fabric of the poem. The world should seem a little sharper after having heard engaged with one. The comfort zone of everyday existence isn’t a comfort zone at all, it is in a sense an exercise in stopping experience.
I am in the car racing towards the station to get the two oclock train. Paul Blizzard is inthe car. The rapturous applause still ringing in our ears. He gives me generous feedback and we flip the reading over and over as is my want after an event. Since stopping drinking I enjoy event so much more. “How are you” I ask Paul aware that I have spent my post-reading high talking of myself and the One Hour reading I’d just done. “My radio station has just been closed down” he says. “And I am on my way to London to meet Tessa Jowell The Culture Seceratary, to give her a piece of my mind”. I pause to think. He’s been so generous as an MC of the preceding event and “I am out of a job as of tomorrow”. It’s all connected to the digital switch over and Channel Four who bought Oneword (for political reasons) seemingly just to muscle in their own recently launched radio programme. The car stops “run” he says “you’ve got five minutes to get the train”.
I arrive at the south bank for about five PM to record a childrens story about a young charachter called Benito. The story will be broadcast in a storytelling chair for youngchildren. It takes an hour and an half.
At 6.45pm I get on my bike and cycle to Shaftsebury Avenue to see a piece read through by playwright Trevor Suthers (who wrote The Comedians) and an assortment of actors at The Actors Centre. It’s a read through and I promised my friend the filmmaker Paul Sapin that I would be there. I thank him for inviting me. This is what I like doing watching pieces in progress and learning. Jack Sheppard sits in front of me and the piece begins. It’s enjoyable and is a work in progress so its important to see it in context. A man taps meon the shoulder and all huddle up in his big coat - Kulvinder Ghir. He’s got a lovely smile and a generous spirit. “how you doing lemn” . Kulvinder Ghir was in a play I wrote called The Suede Apple some almost twenty years ago, at Contact Theatre in Manchester.He quotes the script back to me and we laugh. He’s kinda famous now. Same guy,two kids now, French wife, lives in East London. It’s a pleasure, a real pleasure. Am Iproud that he kept the script – that an actor of his stature has kept a script that I wrote twenty years ago. I know what actors are like, how many scripts they read, how rare it is that they keep them. Damn right I am proud. It’s all I need to know. I needn’t tell anyone. Somewhere in the east of London an actor has performed my script and after performing it, has kept it, filed it away to collect dust. If there is one thing I do through writing it’s prove that I was alive at any given point.
I get on my bike and ride home under the stars at 10pm by the canal to the sound of Princes Diamonds and Pearls .