But not whining. Or I hope not.
But it has been quite a week.
The decoration of the HappenStance bedroom/office was neatly finished in time for the work downstairs to commence with a vengeance. The conservatory, which was leaking in more places than we had bowls to put under, has been torn down (ready for rebuilding). So the furniture from the conservatory is in the newly painted bedroom. It is difficult to move there.
The new conservatory has not yet been built so the door which would go into it is boarded up and the sitting room is consequently very dark.
However, the log burning stove (cue previous saga) has been installed. We are still getting used to the shock of stove plus huge pipe. But it works. It certainly works. And the light from the flames slightly offsets the huge dark from the boarded up wall.
Half the exterior of the house has been rough cast and harled. Men come to do pipes, cladding and gutters tomorrow morning. And more of the building work round the soon-to-be-erected conservatory. They are all men. On the board in the kitchen, there’s a small list of names and what they take in their tea.
And on my upstairs list (it has been increasingly hard to get to this computer which is a gateway to the WORLD) there has been the pleasure of knowing Gerry Cambridge’s book, Notes for Lighting a Fire, has been short-listed for The Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards. Long live mortgages!
But meanwhile (a lot of my paragraphs are starting with ‘but’, but that’s the least of it), my friend and HappenStance poet Marcia Menter, arrived from New York, and together we set off for the Isle of Arran, leaving the building work behind, and my long-suffering partner Matt in charge of log stoves, tea for the workers and general survival.
Why Arran? Marcia was one of four winners of the Robert McLellan poetry prize and she flew over, like a true poetry executive, for the award ceremony. (This is not the sort of thing she usually does but hey, life is short).
The three other winners included another HappenStance poet, Jim Carruth (hurray!) And then there was Ron Scowcroft, Hubert Moore and highly commended Emma Strang. Hubert is the one with his hand in his pocket, Ron the one gripping the lectern. Jim, you will recognise. A lovely bunch of people.
But it wasn’t all winning. On our way to the event, Gerry Cambridge texted to say Seamus Heaney had died, a huge loss. I would not normally see this from a US perspective but because I was with Marcia, I knew that this death was featured next day on the front page of the New York Times above the fold. This is practically unheard of.
And so, as PoetryWorld shivered on its foundations, we celebrated poetry, which will outlive all of us.
Peter and Ann Sansom were the judges of the McLellan competition and awarded prizes. But they did much more than that. They are not ordinary judges (or poets). They talked about each winning poem. They read each poem, and then the poets read them again. We got to know those poems, and their authors.
All this in a little community hall on Arran, set out not in in rows, but with café-style tables and bring-your-own bottles of wine. There was a lovely atmosphere. Peter and Ann read a few of their own poems too – not many – with charm, humour and generosity. We laughed a great deal. Oh did you read Anthony Wilson on Ann Sansom? It is all true.
I think it’s true to say that on this lovely occasion on Arran, despite the loss of the great Seamus, we felt like we had all won. He was not forgotten, and as long as there is life and letters, he never will be.
We arrived in Arran in rain but with rainbows.
We left in a squall of rain that nearly soaked us through, followed by brilliant sunshine.
Now back to the building of the HappenStance emporium. This week the conservatory should go up, the roofwork should be done – oh and a few other things. One day it might be possible to read and write here again.
But not yet.
On Friday, I go to London, taking some HappenStance wares to the Free Verse Bookfair at the Conway Hall in London. I must work out where it is before then. If you’re based in or near the metropolis, do come along and have a chat. I may have dust and mortar in my hair, but who cares?