If I had a halo this week it would have a cultural hue. Three evenings out with Celia enjoying the printed word and its practitioners.
Monday saw us at a very couth venue in west London. They do things differently in Notting Hill these days. It’s a far cry from the place I knew in the 1980s, and Celia had digs there she described as grotty when training to be a teacher. Digs close by the venue.
It was an ex Baptist church, now replete with bar and disco ball. We went to listen to five authors and didn’t realise we should have got there early to nab places at a round table and buy a bottle of wine. We sat at the back on seats that were less comfortable than they looked.
But it was worth it. One of the five writers was Helen Macdonald who wrote H is for Hawk. She is an entertaining and unpretentious speaker. I bought her book for Aunt a while ago. Aunt’s AMD is making progress slow, but she was delighted to find that much of the book is set not far from her home. When I bought my own copy after the talk and Helen Macdonald signed it, I asked where she lived as the slides she shared showed a landscape that looked very familiar. It turns out she lives in the village where Mother had her flat in the very sheltered housing scheme. That would explain it.
I shall look out for her at the pub. It’s the one Aunt liked so much and wants to visit again.
Aunt is not feeling great. She is having difficulty swallowing and losing more weight. She will probably have a stent inserted on Tuesday. Tonight she was talking as though she expected to have only weeks to live. I trust she is wrong. Work stops me going to see her at the moment, but it sounds as though I had better get busy making nourishing soups.
On Wednesday Celia were back in familair post codes, taking the bus to Canada Water and another statement library in Southwark, this time by Piers Gough. It has quite eclipsed Will Alsop’s Peckham creation, and is a great space. We were there for a Quick Reads event with Sophie Hannah and Fanny Brice. Coincidentally, Sophie Hannah goes to the same pub mentioned above.
Celia’s husband asked her what Quick Reads were about. She explained they are aimed at people who do not necessarily think of themselves as readers, maybe they are struggling with literacy. He didn’t seem to think we were quite the target audience. Perhaps she forgot to mention the charity is sponsored by Galaxy, and as well as receiving two free books, we could also expect a large bar of chocolate. He found out later as Celia generously shared her chocolate with him. I guess that’s what a good marriage is about.
I prefer Sophie Hannah’s poetry to her novels, and on Thursday took Astronomical to the poetry group in our local library, currently housed in a refitted shipping container. Believe me, it’s a lot better than it sounds. The theme was Love and Hate and the selection read by the various members was great. In fact it was one of the best meetings we have had in ages. Fatima was there. I wrote about her once before when I first met her. My respect for her grows each time I see her. I should love to see her on Questiontime. She read Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise at another poetry event in Peckham Library a few weeks ago.
Read is the wrong word. She performed it. Anyway, on Thursday she wowed us again, and even sang. Now being a native of the British Isles, I suffer acute embarrassment when people burst into song beside me. But not on this occasion. I felt privileged, and judging from the responses around the table, so did everyone else.
When the session ended Fatima, Celia and I went for a drink together. In some ways Fatima is like an exotic bird, but unlike most exotic birds she is far from featherbrained. Nor does she seek to outshine others. Celia and I looked like drab little garden birds beside her, and listening to her, my enthusiasms seemed safe and dull compared with the passion and zest with which she embraces opportunity.
Quite how we have managed without Fatima all these months I am starting to wonder. She had an eminently sensible and practical solution for dealing with Alice who is still composing poems about Princess Diana. Unfortunately for us, at the pub there were members of a choir celebrating one of its member’s birthday. Fatima (naturally) got talking to them, and as she wants to join a choir we may lose her from poetry as the two overlap.
Yes, I’d definitely vote for her.