Wednesday, 15 October 2008
It's been all quiet on the western front recently, but that's mainly because I've been busy. Amongst other things, last week I went along to the Buy Art Fair at Urbis. I also took in the preview events for this year's Manchester Literature Festival: Lucky Voice at Tiger Tiger, where poets Patience Agababi, Caroline Bird and John McAuliffe celebrated National Poetry Day karaoke-style; and an audience with Anita Shreve at Dancehouse. And in addition, I went up to Lancaster for the weekend, where I narrowly escaped being poisoned by some dumplings - though that, as they say, is really quite another story.
Today I was over in Liverpool for the North West Independent Publishers' Showcase, which is just one of the many events making up the new Chapter & Verse literature festival at the Bluecoat. It was great to see so many of the region's independent presses and literary magazines represented there, taking in everything from local history to radical poetry. I also enjoyed a varied selection of readings from a number of the writers they have published including Dominic Berry, John Redmond, Michael Carson and Rebecca Goss.
Tomorrow, of course, will be the first day of Manchester Literature Festival, complete with the Manchester Poetry Prize Gala in the evening. Today (when I wasn't enjoying new writing and publishing, of course) I found myself wondering what exactly one wears to a poetry gala. I had a brief flirtation with buying a pair of leopard print tights I saw in Topshop, which I thought might go with my favourite black dress, but then the doubt swept in. Could I really pull off leopard print tights or was it going to be a point-and-snigger situation? Were leopard print tights the kind of thing one really wears to a poetry gala? What shoes would go with them? And was £9.00 just a ridiculous amount of money to pay for tights, leopard print or otherwise? The questions were piling up, Carrie Bradshaw-style. In the end, I came home on the train with boring grey tights - 2 pairs for £4.99 - and no idea what to wear tomorrow night. Tights? Leopard print? What do we think? If anyone out there in the aether has a solution to my sartorial dilemma, I'd actually love to hear it.
But actually, the best thing that happened to me today didn't have anything to do with writing, literature or publishing, or even, as it happens, anything to do with tights. For various boring cancellation-related reasons, I ended up getting the train from East Didsbury to Manchester Airport this morning, and then catching a train on from there to Liverpool Lime Street. Whilst I was waiting for the train to Liverpool in the rather depressing waiting room at Manchester Airport, a sudden movement caught my eye, and I noticed a sparrow hopping around my feet, pecking hopefully at invisible crumbs. I felt a bit concerned about the sparrow: I wasn't sure how it had got into the waiting room, or how it was going to get back out through the automatic doors; but then suddenly I realised that there was actually a whole family of sparrows inside the waiting room. They were everywhere - lined up in a row on the beams in the roof, flitting from table to table cheeping to each other, perched on the back of a chair whilst scrutinising a man eating a Danish pastry. They were quite obviously having a great time. None of the other people in the waiting room (mostly cross-looking commuters, or people who were miserable because they had come back from holidays in the sun to damp, cold Manchester in October) seemed to notice the sparrows at all - even the man with the Danish pastry completely ignored them in spite of their best efforts to charm him into sharing his crumbs - but I sat there very happily watching them for about 20 minutes. I felt as if I had been unexpectedly transported to some tropical paradise where exotic hummingbirds might fly in and out or perch on the table, except of course that everyone looked colder and crosser than they probably would have done in a tropical paradise. But the sparrows were still the highlight of my day.
Lovely sparrow photograph by Rob Wallace via Creative Commons