Now that I’m not going anywhere of any distance from where I live, I’m sometimes revisiting places in my head while I’m scrolling through the camera roll on my phone. I thought I’d share three photos with you here and tell you something about them.
This photo of a glum-looking dog was taken on the train coming home from Ledbury Poetry Festival in the summer of 2018. It was a scorching day, in the middle of a long heatwave. The day before, I’d travelled to the festival on the train from Trowbridge to give my first poetry reading from my book, What Are You After?, after its publication by Nine Arches Press. I was grimy from the train and heat, and intensely nervous. I picked up a pass from the festival office and milled around a bit, spotting some famous names and staring at them from afar.
I don’t remember all of the readings I dropped in on but I remember listening to a talk by Sinéad Morrissey – a kind of poet-in-conversation event – and feeling disappointed that there was too much chat and not enough poems. I met up with Peter Raynard and Raymond Antrobus, the two poets I was going to read with that night, and we worked out a reading order. It was the first time I’d met Ray, although we’d been in conversation via email and social media for a few years. It was lovely to meet him, he was warm and friendly but I was too wound up with worrying about my reading to properly enjoy his company, or anyone’s company.
At some point, Peter and I walked in a nearby park but I can’t remember exactly when or what we talked about, I felt almost sick with nerves. I hadn’t slept much the night before and didn’t feel prepared or ready to read. I just wanted to get it over with. So I read first, and can remember glancing through the audience and seeing a few famous names listening, or half-listening, or not listening. It didn’t help much and I was relieved to sit down again. Ray and Peter read brilliantly of course, especially Ray. He is an amazing performer and writer as anyone who’s seen and heard him read will know.
I don’t remember much else about the event, going out to eat afterwards and then back to a house where the festival put me up for the night. A very welcoming couple who drove me to the train station the next morning to catch my train.
I glanced over at this dog and felt he/she was something of a soul mate, given how flat I felt about my first experience of reading at a big festival. I also had a little laugh about glumness and despair. The picture sums up how I’m feeling now, to be honest!
The next photo is of Stonehenge, also taken in the hot summer of 2018. We live in West Wiltshire but often travel past Stonehenge, in the north of the country, on the A303 – which is where I took this photo from the passenger seat of our car, on our way to visit family in London.
There is, of course, something magical and special about this ancient site, and it always strikes me as extraordinary, however many times I’ve seen it, that it suddenly appears by the side of the road, without fanfare. I remember a time when the whole site was open to the public to visit, no barriers, no financial charge. I don’t visit it these days (even before lockdown) as I hate queues and crowds of people so I don’t like visiting tourist sites in general. My son has been to the summer solstice at Stonehenge several times and says it’s wonderful.
I like the sense of travel in this photo, a sense of escape. I’m looking forward to being able to go places again, on a whim, without planning, just taking off somewhere. What must those stones make of what’s happening to the world at the moment? Have they seen it all before?
The final of my photos is from last year, taken at The Sculpture Trail in the Forest of Dean, about an hour’s drive from where we live. This is a photo of the sculpture called ‘Cathedral’, a 15′ stained glass window suspended from a tree canopy so you can walk under and around the artwork.
Although we’ve lived here in Wiltshire for over 15 years, it was only last year that we visited the Forest of Dean. Spending time walking through and being with trees deep within a forest really is as uplifting and restorative as mindfulness experts say it is. We’ve visited several times and the Forest of Dean will be high on my list of places I want to see again, when the lockdown ends.
So no very faraway places on my camera roll wish list. I probably have an image of the sea somewhere in there, that’s somewhere else I want to go when all this is over. Will it ever be over? (Don’t answer that). If you feel like writing your own post and sharing three photos from your camera roll, do please drop me a link.
This post is in response to the daily Discover Prompt from WordPress (the prompt for this one was ‘Three’) but I’m falling behind with the prompts.