Frankly the reality of realising that I am still alive came as a bit of a shock. Only recently have we ventured out after nearly two years of remaining pretty close to home.
We were treated to a lovely weekend near Canterbury, Whitstable and finally having a walk along the promenade in Herne Bay. My parents once said they cycled from London to Herne Bay in the 30s soon after they met. I can imagine their excitement.
Canterbury Cathedral had long queues and could only be booked on line so we just the admired the exterior and found a beautiful church with no queue, a wood carving of pilgrims in a square, a wonderful second hand bookshop and, fortunately, a cafe that was open at 8 a.m! I’d love to spend a week there.
Rain in Whitstable but wonderful oysters!
Finally Herne Bay where there is a beautiful life-sized bronze of Amy Johnson, the first woman pilot to fly solo to Australia. She died at 37 during World War 2 when the RAF plane she was delivering crashed on the 5th of January 1941 in the Thames Estuary, very near to Herne Bay. The statue is one of two to commemorate the anniversary of this event 75 years after her death.
Poetry workshop – I went to a workshop run by Mandy Pannet for the first time in months. It was held at the beautiful home of a fellow poet Lin, a friend of Mandy, in Climping. I always emerge from these workshops with draft poems to work on.
Eastbourne – We had a posh tea on the pier at Eastbourne, a treat from Joshua, my eldest grandson, who is an intensive care pharmacist at Eastbourne Hospital, together with his lovely partner Meagan, a staff nurse at the same hospital.
We have had a local celebration for Jamie, our middle grandson who has completed his Masters. Waved goodbye to youngest grandson Nicky who is off back to work in Morecambe after months of working from home.
We had an entertaining outing last weekend. Westerham is near my eldest son’s cottage in Tatsfield. We not only had a lovely time at the fair but visited the church and admired the cluster of original cottages nearby. The church was built in 1278.
Punch and Judy – I was delighted to meet an old mate Professor Glyn Edwards setting up to perform his Punch and Judy show. His wonderful wife Mary showed me her Punch marionette. The carved head was far too heavy so they had to make a mould and use other materials.
I know about the weight of large marionettes from my own performing days. My mother and I operated a pair of Can Can girls, each pair having one control.
Naturally the grass was soon covered with enthusiastic children, ready to join in with Mr Punch’s nonsense, including loud yells when the crocodile stole his sausages. Yes, there has been loads of criticism of Mr Punch over the years but I believe it is important to remember he came from the Commedia Del Arte tradition of street theatre in Italy.
More goodies – My son and his partner Sheila were happy to re-acqaint themselves with the Horicultural Society and I think Robin might venture into entering one of his homemade cakes next year or even some blackberry jam!
Robin and Sheila have spent some of lockdown playing their guitars and singing but did have several weeks suffering from Covid. My youngest son and his wife are more interested in boating, fishing, growing veg. and hydroponics.
Music is the food of love?
My partner has joined a jazz band, a wonderful guy called Jay runs it and Alan mangaged a solo on his flute last week. He is also learning the ukulele. I decided to learn it too, so I can accompany myself and sing the songs I like! So now I can just about find the chords and sing along to Rod Stewart’s ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’.
The best laid plans …
Most of the summer seems to have been spent in the garden, where we could ignore the uncertainty of whether it was safe to go out, or better to stay in for the rest of our lives.
Of course I had great plans to empty the garage and loft of accumulated junk, rearrange the marionettes languishing in boxes, make new films, clear all the junk out of my tiny art shed. Then I was going to write an award winning pamphlet like most other poets I know! But so far only my art shed has been sorted out.
Before Afterwards! YAY!
Unwelcome news – six months or so ago I was told that I was going blind in one eye and have had to have monthly injections in it. This has slowed down the loss of sight but has also affected my life in general. I am getting new glasses soon that can cope with my computers a lot better. But not in time to download my pics from my phone easily and effortlessly!
But still I wonder how successful writers do what they do! I am convincing myself they all eat out, have cleaners and gardeners and dedicated partners to cope with day to day crap! Though in reality I know competent writers, including those living alone, who just get on with it.
I guess in recent months I’ve spent quite bit of time chasing some friendly company with like-minded interests on zoom. There are some fantastic poetry groups and workshops in other parts of the country. I also love Billy Collins who started giving free readings twice a week during lockdown on facebook and is still at it!
My memoir has ground to a halt again! I had abandoned two previous attempts, both drafts running to 50,000 + words. Admittedly they were written years ago, one about single parent survival in the 80s, the other, in diary form, about teaching gypsies on a permanent site in South London. This was the one I turned into a play which was performed at the Young Vic. I’ve just read it again and it has some good points so I think it’s worth re-drafting.
Puppets and poetry – I’ve still got quite a collection of abandoned pieces and poems about my sister and I in the world of our parents puppetry and tales of summer seaside shows etc. The new effort will be a collection of short stories and poetry. I’ve got another three sessions of a memoir course booked on line at the British Libary and a prose poetry course for eight weeks which promises to be brilliant.
I realised that much of the ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ drifted away from the topic a bit too much. But I wrote most of the poems on courses and had good overall mentoring from John McCullough. Self publishing is still a bit of a no-no in establised poetry circle, but City Books took some and it’s still on sale on Amazon. Last time I checked I noticed it had two five star reviews!
Dear Ann: My mind spontaneously superimposed your excellent travel narrative on my own travel experiences in England, making them seem very real, like being there! I will write separately soon.
Best wishes, Alastair
P.S. I recognize the last photo in your report: Eccles’ lady partner puppet at Egham! 🙂
Dear Ann: Thank you for your wonderfully heart-warming post and your stoic acceptance of the unfortunate eyesight problem(s). I particularly liked your references to teaching gypsies in London & related photographs – those comments immediately brought to mind:
this stunning performance by the young virtuoso violinist – Teo Gertler:
Gypsy Songs [ Ziegeunerweisen, op.20 ] – by Pablo de Sarasate
Hope the link embeds properly.
Kind regards – Jim Hill
Lovely to read and see your newletter and that you are let loose, back on the road again! About 2 years ago, my sister and I were down in Rottingdene and dropped by the Arts Cafe to see if you were there. You weren’t! She remembers you from a party in Woodside because she loved her Pelham puppets as a child and of course I met you at Lanfranc. Love Linda Lee
Great blog, Ann. Sorry to hear about your eyesight. xx
Love this update, Ann, and all your news of getting out and about – really sorry about your eye problem though. Is that you in the pic teaching the kids? Lovely. I look forward to hearing more about your memoir – and putting it into hybrid form poetry/prose/photos sounds really interesting. Hope we can catch up soon. Robin x
Thank you! Too many projects on the go. But needed a good sort out anyway xxx
Am going to Canterbury for a few days at the end of the month, so I’ll look out for that bookshop. Sounds wonderful. Cx