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So, I’m in Dorset. This is Syd, my mum’s ram, with one of this year’s ram-lambs. You might think the grin on Syd’s face is pride in his offspring, but no…

Lamb-ram and daddy-ram

Father and son


… he’s widening his nostrils as far as possible so he can smell the hormones emanating from the ewes in the next field. There’s lots of frustration going on in the rams’ field at the moment. One of the ram-lambs seems to have decided to shag anything with four legs. I expect Mum’s land is full of traumatised rabbits and badgers at the moment.

Barrington CourtToday we went to Barrington Court. It’s a splendid Tudor house with beautiful gardens and grounds. Most of the window glass is warped, giving some great visual effects (which I spectacularly failed to capture).

Barrington Court - panelled roomMany of the rooms are oak-panelled. Much of the panelling is plain, but some is beautifully carved. The floors are all boarded with oak too, and several of the rooms have ornately carved stone fireplaces.

Dodecahedral sundialThis is the best sundial I’ve ever seen. It’s a dodecahedron, and every side (except the top and bottom) is a working timepiece. Of course, the sun wasn’t out while we were there, so I couldn’t test it.

Four-up privy in cattle shedsI was delighted to find this four-up privy stashed in the cattle sheds. The sheds themselves are quite posh, with a tiled roof, stone floors and individual stalls, each with its own gate.

As delightful as the house and gardens are, the best part of the visit for me was the coconut chocolate brownies in the cafe Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles. While I’ve seen photos of the 40,000 small terracotta sculptures in huge rooms, I think the effect is probably just as intense when the pieces are crammed into three smaller rooms of an Elizabethan manor house.

Field for the British Isles at Barrington Court

We had explored the house, moving through rooms which used to be bedrooms, libraries, bathrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens, laundry rooms… many of those rooms were bare, and as a result somehow more evocative of the centuries the house has lived through than if the National Trust had ‘interpreted’ them by cramming them full of artefacts. After going down a narrow wooden staircase we had to wait a little while, then we were allowed to look at the first of the three rooms. The incongruity of those Elizabethan rooms full of tiny terracotta figures was almost a physical shock.

Each figure is small enough to hold in one hand. Each is roughly person-shaped. And each has two eyes, poked into the clay with a pencil. Apart from that, they are all different. Most are around six inches high, some are taller, a few are smaller. I guess there were about 13,000 of them in the first room, placed tight close to each other so the floor isn’t visible, and all the eyes are pointing forwards.

All looking at me. Waiting. Expecting. I felt like I should know what they wanted, but I didn’t. I went right up close and knelt on the floor… somehow they seemed to multiply as I got down to their level, their silent voices became more insistent. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of art that actively (passively?) demands so much from its audience. Need to think a bit more about it. Want to go and see it again (but not going to pay another tenner to do so).

Now I’m sitting in front of the tv, sipping mead and eating alcoholic fudge, with lamb curry and bread-and-butter pudding digesting nicely inside me, watching the news after seeing Usain Bolt get a gold medal for trotting along a track for less than 10 seconds…

It’s lovely being on holiday.

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I'm going to see the sheep!

I’m going to see the sheep!

I’m going to make some resolutions for my holiday:

  • I will spend at least two days without connecting to the internet (if you see me on Facebook on Thursday or Friday, slap me).
  • I will get into the habit of writing every day (need to establish the habit).
  • I will not worry about how overweight and unfit I am until I get home (want to fully enjoy Mum’s wonderful cooking).
  • I will not spend more than an hour a day working (I’d like to not work at all, but that’s not going to happen).

I never thought I’d end up being a workaholic. But then I was never passionate about my work when I was in IT.

 

This is what I’ve been doing over the last few days.

 

The Bookcase, LowdhamWorking on a new website for The Bookcase in Lowdham. I’m very excited about this project – Jane Streeter wants to make a website that reflects the shop itself, including aspects of the service they give in person and giving a feel for the atmosphere of this perfect example of what an independent bookshop should be.

 

Draft programme for the Nottingham Festival of WordsSorting out the programme for the Nottingham Festival of Words. It’s going to be amazing, awesome, fantastic, brilliant… I know I keep banging on about this, but honestly, it is going to be EPIC. I’m a bit worried that I’m going to mess it up, but I honestly think we’ve got so many top-quality events that even I can’t blow it!

 

Nottingham and Leicester Poetry Society members at the Huw Watkins memorial eventAttending and reading at a special Nottingham Poetry Society meeting to commemorate the life and work of Huw Watkins, who died earlier this year. I never knew Huw, but I know by reading his poetry that I would have liked him. David Duncombe asked me to read Huw’s poem ‘Heifers’ – having spent much of my childhood years living right next to a field that was always full of cows, I can testify that Huw totally understood the beasts. We had a great audience and heard many beautiful poems.

 

The Heroes anthologyToday the proof arrived of an anthology I’ve typeset for the Nottingham Writers’ Studio’s ‘Heroes’ project. Richard Goodson and Natasha Picot worked with groups of young people from diverse backgrounds, which resulted in some amazing poetry and stories, not to mention colourful and inspiring pictures. It was a pleasure to design the anthology and help put it together, and I’m very pleased with the result.

 

Let the Blood RunOver the weekend I worked on a script for a graphic story that Emily Cooper is going to illustrate – we’ve submitted the proposal to Brick’s new project, which is called ‘Drawing from Distress to Recovery’ – an anthology of graphic stories about mental health problems. I hope our proposal (gorily entitled ‘Let the Blood Run’) is accepted, because I’m looking forward to working with Emily. She’s so talented…

 

… and lots of other stuff too. I love my life. Just got to find a way to work some more writing time into it!

Oh, and I somehow ended up watching the Olympic opening ceremony. I loved the cauldron, and the bouncing punks. I wanna be a bouncing punk.

Bouncing Punks

How could you NOT want to be a bouncing punk?

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