Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Schlepp and slap

I foolishly agreed to chair a poetry event. I agreed to do this because an old friend asked me to, and not because I know anything about poetry. The old friend is one of those persuasive enthusiasts who say things like "Really, you'll be great". Deep down, you know they are thinking not so much of your "greatness" but of your "convenience" and the fact that if you say No, they'll have to spend a week finding someone else to sucker. So I said Yes but in reality, I get far too nervous for these events ever to be a good idea.

Worse - when I arrived at the railway station, I realised I'd left the house without my overnight bag with all my make-up. I'm 44 - standing on stage without my make-up infront of 200 people was not a goer. Instead of going straight to the venue as planned then, I had to schlepp into the centre of London for emergency slap. I tried getting a professional to "do" me (possibly I would have been better staying in King's Cross for that) but it turned out it was too close to going-home time. Instead, a charming girl at Space NK in New Bond Street waved me towards their make-up displays and said that I was welcome to use what I wanted. I just resisted stripping to my bra and knickers and getting the curlers out. I settled instead for ambling among the products transforming myself (or at least covering up the eyebags and trying those eyeshadow colours you'd never buy in real life.) I considered myself morally obliged to buy a few bits and pieces though I'm supposed to be on a credit crunch budget and there is no expenditure column in my Excel spreadsheet for "General Incompetence". I'll file them under "Groceries."

My second problem was that I now looked OK but smelled bad. All the burrowing into and out of rush-hour tubes in magic knickers and a Barbour Jacket had left me a sweaty mess. I had to buy two different types of deodorant, one for me and a posh Channel jobbie to spray all over my cardigan because I had to sit really close to the poets on the stage and I didn't want them thinking bloggers were smelly. (The deodorants are going under "Emergency Personal Hygiene".)

The idea was I gave a ten-minute introduction and then welcomed each of the Big Name poets. Two people (I know because they introduced themselves to me afterwards)- three if you count my friend, four is you count his partner and five if you count his mother, knew who the hell I was. The audience was not interested in hearing my witticisms, and they were particularly uninterested in hearing my announcements on "feedback forms" and how to book tickets online for the next event about "Poetry and Mental Health."

They wanted the red meat of the event - they wanted the poets. They loved the poets, they laughed heartily at all their jokes, bought their books and waited attentively for them to be signed. Noone asked me to sign a book afterwards. At least I got to stand at the bar looking as if I just happened to be there, rather than sit behind a table being ignored. (And Thank God for the nice couple with the holiday cottage in Northumberland who talked to me.) It was one of those character-building experiences - I've written one book, one of the poets the brilliant Sophie Hannah has written seven novels, two children's books and her latest poetry was nominated for some massive prize. She's 37. Another of the poets Kit Wright has written 25 books. Jackie Kay may be the next Poet Laureate and has an MBE. Wendy Cope is a legend and Paul Farley's use of words could have me writhing on the floor, shrieking and possessed by jealous demons. My name is the Wife in the North and I blog. It doesn't even rhyme.

42 comments:

Braja said...

Humbling.

Jesus. 25 books??

Thank you for the warning. I hope I never find myself surrounded by such real talent... :))

Pam said...

You have an Excel sheet for expenses? I'm impressed!
It sounded like a humbling experience and I'll check out the poets when I've got some time.

rosiero said...

We all come into this world with nothing and we all go out of this world with nothing. What we do in-between is a bit hit-and-miss really. Quite a humbling experience.

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Ah from small beginnings....
Or as the Vicar at my children's old primary school used to say, "From little acorns, great oak trees grow." It lost its impact after a few years, but you know, he has a point.

Enjoying doing blog thing Judith, thanks for the advice - do drop by if you have time - it's been quite a week. Ooh you can't resist now can you! Best wishes, Jo :-)

TexasRed said...

What a great opportunity! Always good to be around inspiring people (and to know that there are plenty of people who are inspired by you, too).

Maddie Grigg said...

Scary! The more I know about poetry the less I understand it.
But what's even scarier is being without make-up and having to improvise. What they probably didn't tell you is the stuff from there melts under harsh lights and intense stares and you end up looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost...

halfmarathongirl said...

Well, it's always possible that if they were asked to chair a blogging event they too would feel slightly at sea!

Being without make-up is probably a slightly better option than attending an important meeting adorned with blue ink on one cheek as I managed to do at work a couple of weeks ago!

Miriam said...

You do yourself a disservice. Despite nerves, you went to the event, all the way to London, and spoke. That's brave and character-building.
And you tell a funny story at the end of it here, which had me in stitches laughing.
I'm not a writer, I don't even have a blog, but I think that you're a born story-teller, and I admire the way you can laugh at yourself. So take a bow, WITN, mimi

I Beatrice said...

And I'm willing to bet none of those succcessful poets and writers could have given such a wryly amusing account of the convention, either!

Fenland female said...

Worry not. I've never heard of any of those poets let alone read anything they've written. But I have read the whole of your book & follow your blog... I rest my case!!!

Rachel said...

How inspiring to be the one introducing the poets, particularly Wendy Cope, a great favourite of mine.

Swearing Mother said...

But Wifey, I love to read what you write and that's the difference - I haven't heard of any of the others (sorry others) and besides, I can't stand poetry unless it has a rude punchline rhyming with the line "there was a young lady from Ealing".

I'd much rather come and listen to you, whiffy cardi, dodgy eye-shadow and all. Yes, you have only written one book, but don't diss it - I loved that book and continue to love your blog for that matter.

And look on the bright side, you may have had to get up on stage without your own familiar slap and Barbour jacket armpits, but this time at least you didn't have nits.

Now that's what I call progress.

Daisy Turnip said...

Ditto Swearing Mother - chin up Wifey - you have your own personal fan club going on here too!

You're fab and you know it - stop looking for praise! : ) x

mutleythedog said...

Its sounds screamingly funny! You should have written some limericks - or asked me - I could have knocked off a few... so to speak. OR - and this works - pretend to like Spike Milligan and Pam Ayres.... hahahahahahahaha hahahahahahaha!

Dreamybee said...

Congratulations on making it through! That whole experience sounds like one of my worst nightmares. The other would be being shipwrecked at sea, so I admire your survival greatly!

family affairs said...

Nightmare and a bit "back down to earthish" - AND NO MAKE-UP AT 44 (that's my age - I'd have had to do just the same thing) - anyway, a top tip for your next poetry event is think about what "blog" lymeric to shar with the audience..."clog", "bog", "log", "hog", "dog" - it just gets better (although "fog" has potential) Lx

abbs said...

I am showing off to everyone about us being called 'a nice couple'! I wish we did have a holiday cottage but we only ever have one for a fortnight at a time. We have been on holiday to Northumberland (usually Alnmouth)at least 20 times.

We booked tickets for the poetry event because it was called North and South and it was billed as being based on the work of Elizabeth Gaskell - who wasn't mentioned at all.

I was really excited when we arrived and found out that you were going to chair the evening. I didn't think I had any chance of talking to you so I was thrilled when I realised I had a chance. I would certainly have brought my copy of the book for you to sign if I had known.

As you say, the poets were wonderful. But you were the only one on the platform who could talk about North and South which was the theme.

It was a marvellous evening and I do hope you'll do it again. And let us know in time to book tickets.

Judith Abbs

sunshine said...

Welcome back! Missed you--
The whole area of make-up is a sore one. At 67, I definitely will not go out the door without it. I have found it very effective to "just paint the exterior" and wake up later on; saves stress. Friends have learned not to ask me "how are you" till at least noon.

Your terminology is great! and I shall adopt it. Previously, I have just used the word "gunk". Slap is so much zippier! Now, if you'd help me out with the meaning of "magic knickers"-----are those the ones your skirt got caught up in earlier in your blog?

Cynthia said...

Entertaining read...what do you have to be jealous of??? They have their thing and you have yours...I sure your were fab...expensive deodorant, colorful eye makeup, and sweaty blogger smell...and all. Still wouldn't your love to do one of those panels for bloggers? Wife in the North is here to share her experiences with the ordinary stuggles of a not so ordinary life...If I may present, the extraordinary wife herself....
visit me at Oasis in Puerto Rico...you seem like such a clever fun person Mrs. Wife ~ <3

Mopsa said...

Yup, but they all had to start with book number one. But Jackie Kay AND Wendy Cope? lucky you!

justme said...

You survived it! and met some nice people as well! So....well done you! Put it down to experience....

Expat mum said...

Wendy Cope eh? I had to take down a post of mine after reading how pissed off she gets when people quote her poems without paying. And here I was thinking I was giving her some free publicity. Was she as forbidding as she appears to me?
PS. And well done for "going outside your comfort zone".

shula said...

Never mind.

Natasha said...

Ahh Wifey please don't let your insecurities grab you and wrestle you to the floor! As the dalai lama would put it (somewhat more eloquently!) comparison with others can only get you down.. there will always be those who are doing what you do better (unless you're Tiger Woods or Barak Obama or JK Rowling!) Me, I'd love your success - what happens if I compare my measly novel and its first few rejection letters with your immediate burst into a world of generous royalty advances, screen rights, and fame of sorts, as well as a blog full of praising fans?! I might as well fling my manuscript into the next passing rubbish truck - as might my oldest friend, on her 51st rejection letter! My mother always used to say: "Be content with what you've got, what you've got is quite a lot!" A lot in your case compared to humble wannabe writers like me, BUT I do understand the tendancy to fret. We struggle to send our (very bright) son to the local private school where I'm surrounded by hedge fund types with huge houses compared with my (desperately in need of refurbishment untouched since 1930s!) little home... there's a lot of anxiety to be had in starting to compare.... I look up to you, Judith, so chin up! Natasha

Annette Piper said...

I don't know how many times I have had to go and buy 'emergency' cosmetics because I keep leaving them behind. Soon I'll have enough to leave in absolutely any bag or suitcase I'll ever use, so at least hope is on the horizon!

Jane said...

Just finished your book, I was dragged kicking and screaming in the opposite direction to Kent 13 years ago. I spent my childhood on the beaches of Bamburgh, take my children back there several times a year and my heart bleeds each time we leave.

Daffodilly said...

What are magic knickers?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Ah but to us wifey with your whole, published book, to us you are amazing. and may i say fragrant. particularly your cardigan.
and no-one would have seen your toes curling in shame whilst you were on stage because i'm sure you were wearing your pointy red shoes. It's all good from where i'm sitting.
Pigx

Vargas said...

Marvelous post: funny, true and full of slap and magic knickers. What could be better?

Vargas said...

Marvelous post: funny, true and full of slap and magic knickers. What could be better?

Vargas said...

Marvelous post: funny, true and full of slap and magic knickers. What could be better?

lilah said...

Hi there! I just wanted to tell you that I have recently ordered (recieved it yesterday!) your book, translated into Swedish and sold here! I look very much forward to reading it!

Such a great idea to make a book from your blogs! Did you have any trouble in finding a publishing house willing to take it on?

lilah said...

PS) My blog is not on google! I only have an account there for my websites...
http://www.lailaswell.com
http://www.lailanorman.se
http://blogg.lailanorman.se

Retiredandcrazy said...

It's at times like this you have to remember those lines from the desiderata:-

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Not that I'm suggesting your career is at all humble! And here is a thought to hold onto - us mere mortals are trying to emulate you!

mutleythedog said...

That man you suggested I contact about my book of 534 erotic limericks did not even reply... also he has a non-molestation order against me... so much for friends in high places...

***** said...

There is nothing more humiliating than being in close proximity to people who are you are trying to impress, and realising you do not smell terribly attractive. There is very little you can do, but I recall once racing to the loo, scubbing loads of foul smelling handwash under my arms and over my upper-body, then attempting to clean it off and dry myself on the hand dryers. This was of course at an upmarket event in the west end. Ghastly!

MoaningMum said...

There is nothing more humiliating than being in close proximity to people who are you are trying to impress, and realising you do not smell terribly attractive. There is very little you can do, but I recall once racing to the loo, scubbing loads of foul smelling handwash under my arms and over my upper-body, then attempting to clean it off and dry myself on the hand dryers. This was of course at an upmarket event in the west end. Ghastly!

Holland Park Football said...

Great bog!

'Megan' said...

I'd be terrified if I had to go somewhere like that and I forgot my make up bag.
Lucky you were near shops.

Sometimes I sleep too late in the mornings and dash to work without any slap on, so I have to quietly sneak out to Boots as soon as possible and pretend to be trying out their make up - whilst trying to slap on as much test foundation as poss.

mysterycreature1 said...

Hmm...

Wife in the North
Who rambles forth
about not being as "good"
as the poets who could...

There you are, your name can rhyme... even if it does sound like it's been written by an overenthusiastic primary school kid!

le @ thirdontheright said...

needless to say we all love you and what is the big deal with potery anyways ....

The Persuasive Enthusiast said...

Schlepp and tickle more like! Actually I think that Wife in the North was a real star at this event, which was all about using poetry and chat to explode the myths and stereotypes of the North South divide. And I can report that at least one of the famous poets was completely star struck by the opportunity to meet her. In the meantime, if you want to experience some of the very best of the UK spoken word scene check out the video podcasts at http://www.poetinthecity.co.uk/events/19/video and http://www.poetinthecity.co.uk/events/15/video
and come along to the fabulous Spoken Word All Stars event being held at the same venue (Kings Place,90 York Way, London N1 9AG) on Mon 15 June www.kingsplace.co.uk
The Persuasive Enthusiast