Just Returned from Belfast

3rd March, 2008.

This is my first live entry to my blog.  I have just returned from the Belfast Meets Wales Conference, held in Belfast and run in conjunction with the Writers’ Guild, Wales, and Academi.  Highlights included a fascinating discussion by a journalist called Peter Taylor who has written extensively about ‘the troubles’ followed by a tour of the city  which set the discussion in context  and in graphic reality.  I was stunned to see murals from both sides of the divide in the city and the so called ‘Peace Wall’ that made me think of Palestine, Berlin and all those interior walls we carry in our heads without the visual symbolism. I am now currently reading a memoir called ‘asking for trouble’ by Patricia Craig as a way in to deepening my understanding of some of the recent history. It also gives a woman’s view of Catholicism and being brought up by nuns!  I was over at the conference with a group of writers and literature activists from Yorkshire, and Jane Stubbs. Very tired today, with my head full of new ideas and information.  I also really enjoyed meeting Lucy Caldwell – novelist and Glen Patterson, who I knew a long time ago and was delighted to see again.  He had a great description of how to describe Northern Ireland:  He thought of his birthplace as ‘over here’  and England as ‘over there’.  This description neatly bypassed all the linguistic and political problems of calling Northern Ireland ‘The Province’ or England ‘The Mainland’ and many other labels.

Welcome

Welcome to my blog. This is the first entry for this section of my web site. I thought I would share with you a book I have just finished reading which I found for a £1 from an Oxfam bookshop when doing a gig near Cheltenham. It was ‘Small Island’ by Andrea Leavy. Many readers of this blog will have read this book, I know. It has taken me a while to get round to it because of all the hype – which put me off. However, I found the storytelling compulsive, the narrative very moving and the breadth of a period of recent history that I know relatively little about. I wish my mother was alive because she was living in London in the early fifties and there are a lot of questions I would like to ask her. I have also just been to see the film ‘Control’ by Anton Kurbain. It was set in Macclesfield, near where I grew up as a teenager and Joy Division were one of the bands that I saw live. I found the film grim, moving and reminiscent of living in cheap woodchip rooms with terrible furniture as a student.

Poet and Literature Consultant