Report on the FreeVerse Bookfair? Better late than never.

The hall was busy from start to finish – a hubbub of busy, chatting, poetry buzzing people. It was enormously friendly. At first I thought it too full. But no, it added to the warmth of the occasion. Parties are always better when there’s hardly room to move.


And since this is the third fair of its kind, a pattern has emerged. The remarkable Charles Boyle (or another member of the team) stands on the platform and rings a large brass bell to announce readings. Talk is hushed. A rivulet of people exit the hall to hear the reading. Their place is immediately filled by others. Talk starts again, but louder.

You see people you haven’t seen in years. You meet people you have never met before, but will certainly meet again.

Sales from HappenStance were good. Much better than I expected. We despatched nearly all the Seamus Heaney jelly, made from blackberries picked with my own hand the day before I left. D A Prince, who was assisting on the HappenStance table was plugging it cheerfully as “an inspiration in every mouthful”. I agree – but then I would.

After the bookfair. I went to my mother’s in Sussex for a few days. I got back late Wednesday night.

When I left there was a depressing space where a conservatory (albeit crumbling) once stood. And the window to the sitting room was boarded up, making it permanently dark inside.













When I got back the edifice was up! The window was back. And there was a sparky in the house putting in new plug points, even though it was 8.30 pm. In fact, it was he who came and picked me up from the bus stop. It isn’t just poets who are versatile.


The furniture from the conservatory, and some of the stuff from the sitting room, was in the HappenStance room. (Still is.) The contents of the dresser in the sitting room, which had to be moved to allow the sparky to move the points, were on the dining table. The television was in the bedroom. The telephones were on the floor. The furniture in my study (aaargh!!) was in a pyramid in the centre of the room to allow the sparky to get in with his drill and implements.

There was dust. A lot of dust. And some rubble.

On Thursday and Friday the Men worked on the inside of the conservatory and laid the laminate flooring. Mugs of tea were supplied.

Tomorrow (Monday) a painter comes to tape things in the conservatory and make the back walls look like wall, as opposed to plaster board with nails in it. The harling man may come back this week with more scaffolding. It has not been possible to get him on the phone.

And while on the subject of phones. My Significant Other has observed, in his ongoing study of the Ubiquity of Mobile Phones and their Destructive Effects on Modern Society, how often the Men, whether builders, joiners, harlers or plumbers, take phone calls. You see them in the garden chatting away, or texting. And yet – when they are not at your house and you try to phone them. . . .

The worst point of the week was when the joiner appeared behind me while I was busily typing away and trying to clear the backlog of email and orders. He made me jump, and knocked my concentration for six. He had arrived to reseal the leaking double-glazed windows. I had forgotten about the leaking windows.

So I had to move all the furniture around the window in my study and in the HappenStance room. There isn’t really anywhere to move things to any more. The chair I am sitting on is falling to bits. The desk is propped up in a somewhat worrying way because it collapsed irretrievably when I moved it and fell on top of it. I still haven’t hoovered up the sawdust round the skirting boards.

There will not be a blog next week, not because of the building works, which still won’t be finished, but because I will be in Devon and about to participate in an Arvon course at Budleigh Salterton for the first time ever. I hope I can find all the bits I need to take with me. I hope I can get my head clear enough to prepare (I am a great preparer, though I’m not always convinced this is a virtue).

Why do I keep making bramble jelly in the middle of this mayhem? (More will be made this afternoon.) It’s a stay against confusion. I find it works better than poetry.



  1. Totleigh Baarton not Budleigh Salterton Nell!
    I only mention it because I am on the course – really looking forward to it – and wouldn’t want you to be lost miles away in a different part of Devon!

  2. Thank you for saving me, Annie! At least the link takes the reader to the right place. There is [i]some[/i]thing similar about the names, don’t you think? :p

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