Monthly Archives: September 2011

Poetry with Romola Garai at St George’s

Romola Garai read poetry at St George’s on Monday, September 19. Luckily for Jonathan Davidson, the special guest, she went second because no matter how lovely his poetry was, it would have been difficult to compete with the smoldering and sensuous tones of the young actress.

The most surprisingly sensual poem of all was about a pint of stout. The most inspiring poem about love was by Derek Walcott.

It was all a bit surprising but it was a real pleasure to discover some poets of whom I’d never heard before. The following was my favourite.

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.

Life / wellness coaching

I talked to a wellness life coach recently and while I expected her to have all the answers, it turns out she was armed with the right questions and let me find all the answers for myself.

Linda Formichelli had an offer for some practice sessions and I contacted her about two things in my lifestyle that have been on my mind recently, my running and my diet.

She started the call by explaining that she wouldn’t just tell me what to do. This process was more of a listening one on her part and if she had suggestions then she would ask me if she could share them.

When I first got in touch I was sent a set of questions to answer about what I wanted to talk about and then given a second assignment to describe some bits of my lifestyle. By the time we started chatting she had a reasonable idea of what the session was about and I’d had some time to place myself in the same kind of context, as well. No matter how focused I thought I was about my topics, there’s something about putting it in writing that gives it a more solid grounding.

I remembered the last time I was feeling really healthy – it was in 1999 and I was running, eating properly and feeling extremely energetic. When I ran my first marathon over 10 years later, I’d done a lot of training but didn’t feel at my best. I somehow wanted to combine the two times and get to that stage again.

In the session, over Skype, I did most of the talking and Linda asked the questions. What do you want to achieve? What would help you do that? Is there anything blocking you? How can you make sure you follow through?

She also offered some suggestions of her own. For example, one of my biggest issues is eating the right things at the right time with a healthy, balanced diet. She asked me if I knew what that looked like and I said I did. Mainly vegetables, some carbohydrates, some meat and less dairy. How would I achieve this? Would it work if I bought a lot of food at the start of the week and then make the meals along the way? No. I know myself and I need structure so a plan would be better.

There were websites with lots of recipes. There are supermarkets close by and I had some time in the morning. I could cook twice the amount and freeze half and some other suggestions as well. Most importantly, the suggestions came from me and that’s who I felt accountable to. I had no need to lie and I had every reason to make sure that when I said nothing was blocking me from doing these things, that I was telling the truth.

It was a fascinating experience and it feels positive so far.

Linda has a few more sessions which she is offering on a free basis in exchange for feedback. Check out her site at Happy Fit Coaching and see if there is any aspect of your wellness with which she can help. This isn’t about sorting out relationships or finances. The topics with which she can help are in the areas of health, fitness, diet, and wellness.

To sign up for your free wellness coaching session, email her at lindaformichelli@gmail.com and you can set up a date and a time between now and October 31.

One Day by David Nicholls

One Day is the story of Emma and Dexter. It gets told over twenty years by focusing on one day of each year. The day is July 15 and we read about where they are at that point and fill in the gaps about what happened to get them to there. It starts from the night of their graduation from university.

The story starts off simply enough. Privileged, pretty boy gets everything he wants and wastes it. Hard working girl from Yorkshire achieves top grades but can’t live her dream. A double first in English and history from the University of Edinburgh lands her a job in a greasy fast food restaurant where she whiles away the time wishing she was elsewhere.

Her creativity is hollowed out and expressed through beautiful, wistful letters to a guy who would rather be elsewhere with some nubile young thing and who usually is. Perhaps a pocket of his soul is saved for her but not much more.

That’s the beginning and if you expect to find a glowing romance then this isn’t the book for you. This story is about real life. It’s about how age wears you down and you settle and you make do with what you have. It’s about love but not in the passionate, make every dream come true, kind of love. Not really. It is the reminder that passion and romance have a place but life will happen regardless.

The real gem here is David Nichol’s writing. No matter what the characters do, the writing stands out and remains powerful throughout. Some examples:

“As the possibility of a relationship had faded, Emma had endeavored to harden herself to Dexter’s indifference and these days a remark like this caused no more pain than, say, a tennis ball thrown sharply at the back of her head.”

“Life is about to change if only because it must.”

“Live each day as if it’s your last’, that was the conventional advice, but really, who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn’t practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at … something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever…”

As a travel writer, he was no Bruce Chatwin, but still she would slip the postcards in the pocket of a heavy coat on long soulful walks on Ilkley Moor, searching for some hidden meaning in ‘VENICE COMPLETELY FLOODED!!!!”

There is a whole list of quotations on Goodreads and some people liked that encouragement that he sent Emma from his letters in India. When he was drunk. I think some consider it the romantic ‘almost’. The what could have happened had that letter been mailed. I don’t. I don’t like Dexter but this story works sometimes despite what happens to them.

I will leave you with my favourite that is a poignant reminder of how it is life, day to day, that is the most tiring thing sometimes.

‘No reason, Em’ said Dex. ‘I just really, really want to tip you,’ and Emma felt another small portion of her soul fall away.

Arts and Crafts and Woolly Hats for charity in Bristol

An arts and crafts extravaganza

The Bristol charity, the Children’s Scrapstore, are hosting an arts and crafts extravaganza at their open day on 24 September, to celebrate the installation of new solar and PV panels on the Children’s Scrapstore’s roof, following a grant from the Low Carbon Buildings Trust.

People will be able to get their hands on mountains of play and craft materials which include everything from foam shapes to foil and fabric. This is normally only available to members such as schools, playgroups, children’s centres etc. but for one day only children and families can take part in free workshops and dig out art and craft bargains to take home.

Activities at the Scrapstore, 21 Sevier Street, St Werburghs, will include:

  • Free workshops (no booking required) with craft experts showing children and families how to make the most out of scrap
  • Bristol Pedal Revolution and Biggles Recycles will offer pedal powered woodwork, whilst whipping up smoothies to wash it down with
  • Bike maintenance and mending with Dr Bike
  • Bristol Bike Project drop point, taking donations of old, unwanted bikes to recondition and re-use

The open day will be held at the Scrapstore, 21 Sevier Street, St Werburghs, BS2 9LB from 10 am to 4 pm on Saturday 24 September

For further information contact: enquiries@childrensscrapstore.co.uk, 0117 908 5644, www.childrensscrapstore.co.uk

Woolly Hat Day for St Mungos


The homeless center on Jamaica Street, St Mungos, is hosting, promoting and supporting a hilarious hats day on November 4 to raise funds for the charity.

The national homeless charity provides healthcare advice and employment support for Bristol’s homeless and is looking to raise money with its Woolly Hat Day.

Martin Freeman, from Sherlock, and comedian Ed Byrne are supporting this warm-headed day and hope you will too.

For more information and ideas:

Innocent on tour in Bristol

Innocent, the company more famous for their natural drinks and veggie pots, have launched a cook book Hungry? and are on tour around the UK to promote it.

Between September 13 and 15 they will be visiting some prominent Bristol locations. They start off at the central and child friendly At-Bristol, 12pm to 2.30pm, Bristol Science Museum, Anchor Road, BS1 5DB.

The selling point of the Innocent drinks and meals is that they are healthy and provide a few of your five-a-day fruits and/or vegetables. Quite fittingly, one of the promotions is a dish that for £5 provides all five of your quota.

There will also be healthy chips, salads and smoothies from £2.

Find them at the following locations.

Tuesday 13th – At-Bristol (Science Museum)
Wednesday 14th – Centre Promenade
Thursday 15th – May Park Primary School

The first step in writing

I once had a friend who was a writer. She was a brilliant writer; passionate and artistic. She carried with her a well worn book of Catcher in the Rye and in her notepad of literary scribblings, she had written out Cavafy’s The First Step.

She wrote it out in the original Greek but I’ll stick to English for now.

The young poet Evmenis
complained one day to Theocritos:
“I have been writing for two years now
and I have composed just one idyll.
It’s my only completed work.
I see, sadly, that the ladder of Poetry
is tall, extremely tall;

He is comforted by Theocritos who tells him that

Just to be on the first step
should make you happy and proud.
To have come this far is no small achievement:
what you have done is a glorious thing.
Even this first step
is a long way above the ordinary world.

He goes on to tell him how great it is to even write one poem because it means he stands out from those who never write anything.

I read that now and think ‘yeah right’. With blogging so prevalent that just isn’t true anymore. There are 353,593 bloggers on wordpress.com, there are a myriad more on tumblr.com, blogspot, typepad, posterous and many services I don’t know about.

There are 93,251,087 words on WordPress.com. 93 million. How many of those words are spelt wrong?

I’m being petty and silly. Plenty of journalists, if not more than the average non-journalistic profession, are terrible spellers. They are indeed so cavalier with the written word that it’s as if they have become desensitized to the clarity and beauty that it can provide.

They are functional writers, these journalists. They make a point. They write to get paid. Well, by definition, obviously. But they’re content generators most of them. No, wait. That’s not what i mean to say.

That’s not even the point i want to make.

Let’s get back to my friend who I shall call Tatiana because that is her name.

She was a passionate writer and an even more enthused and sparkling person. I remember letting her down once when I told her that my boyfriend at the time was not my great love. Then why are you with him? she asked. How can you settle like that?

I don’t know how I settled.

I also settled on writing. I post things which I don’t really revise and edit. I post just so I can have something on the blog. Oh the pressure to get as many hits as possible. A few months ago I was getting about 400 hits a day. This dropped to about 200 once I moved the baby blog to its own separate space which only gets a handful now – up to 70 perhaps.

Then the rest diluted to under a 100 on an average day. The best part about having a few blogs is that I no longer worry about how many hits I get. I have one blog which I don’t actually use but I intend to. It’s where I intend to post just on books. It makes me happy that I get no hits on there at all.

I love people reading my work but I was spending time thinking about how to increase my readership rather than focusing on the writing.

I started this blog so that I could explore all different types of writing. I was going to be experimental. Re-write press releases, try poetry (not really), interviews, features, book reviews, restaurant reviews. I wanted to work on the things I found the most difficult. I never did get around to writing about sports. I don’t think a picture of a run counts.

And yet, here I am, feeling that I’m producing mediocre work just so I can get more content.

I read other mediocre work and get angry because it reminds me of my own writing which I don’t like.

Then there is writing that is well researched, creative, inspiring, passionate and so moreish that it makes me want to find something like that to write about too.

I have noticed articles about reclaiming or finding your passion.

Bloggers who call themselves food writers or researchers while journalists lose all motivation.

They will likely never equate the trials and tribulations they’ve faced to become what they are today, with the equally enormous amounts of effort required to become what you are today.

The one part that comes closest to how I feel about blogging, while still not sure about bloggers, is the following:

“If I had to sum up what blogging means to me, I would say, ‘discovery.’ Not only because of all the things I get to research and learn about, but because I continuously surprise myself by finding things in the psyche I don’t know are there until I see them on the screen.”
A year of blogging