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City walk, a workshop, Van Halen & Jo Bell’s ‘Kith’

This is the first year in a while that I haven’t been driving up to the Southbank for the T S Eliot Prize readings this evening. I’ll look forward to reading all about it on various blogs.

I’m having a catchup day between jaunts. Last week was the first session in Katy Evans-Bush‘s fortnightly small-group poetry workshop up in Clerkenwell. I’m planning to make these Wednesdays into interesting trips to London by adding on other activities. The way the train tickets work is that you can’t leave London between 4 and 7pm on a weekday, without paying another £34. So since I can’t come straight home after the workshop, why not do something else?

detail from the Queen Victoria statue in front of Buckingham Palace, London

Last month when Nick and I were in town for a night, we spent a lovely morning just walking around and discovering so many quirky things we’d never noticed before. So after the workshop this week I decided to walk back to Victoria from Clerkenwell, taking my time, looking at statues and interesting buildings as I go and just being a pedestrian. I didn’t dawdle but I didn’t rush – along Theobalds Road towards Holborn, past the lovely gardens of Gray’s Inn, through Theatreland to Piccadilly Circus, down through leafy St James’s and Pall Mall, past the looming Duke of York’s monument and down steps to The Mall, up to Buckingham Palace and onto Victoria Station. I may have been the only pedestrian who wasn’t in a hurry. I didn’t check Google Maps or stress about best roads to take, just followed my nose. It was brilliant. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy my ‘city walks’, and I plan to try different routes each time. The nice thing is that if I change my mind there’s always a bus to get part or all of the way. I know it sounds silly but I’m so used to getting around central London on public transport that it’s a real revelation to find how easy it is to walk places.

The workshop itself was really useful, so much so that the poem I’d taken for feedback was tidied up the next day and sent out. Yes! In fact I’ve gone a bit crazy since my last blog post and sent out no less than fourteen poems. You read that right! I just looked through all my current stuff and thought, this is ridiculous, what am I waiting for? So they’re out the door. Amazingly, three have already found a home: Charles Johnson at Obsessed with Pipework is so good at responding quickly, and JUMPED on my poem ‘The Metallurgy of Eddie van Halen’ (see what I did there?). In fact I think I probably wrote it with OWP in mind. Anyway, it’s given me an immediate shot of confidence for the new year. Huzzah! This is how I feel!

On Friday I was in Reading at the excellent Poets’ Cafe at the invitation of Claire Dyer, and I have to say it was brilliant. The organisation, promotion of the event, the venue, the lovely audience and everything was so good. Things like being asked ‘can I just check how you pronounce your name’ is the sign of a professional set-up. I want to mention in particular the lovely hosting by Becci Louise Fearnley. Do get along to the Poets’ Cafe in Reading if you can, it’s every month at South Street Arts Centre. Highly recommended.

In the post this week, a little treat:

Kith by Jo Bell

I started reading it over a cup of tea and couldn’t stop. Consumed in one sitting! That has to be a recommendation. I loved it, and kept thinking OOH I wish I’d written that. So, another good omen for the year ahead. It’s not brand new, but dammit it’s good. Kith by Jo Bell (Nine Arches Press) is currently on offer for just £4.99 – Yes! You read that right! Half price! Buy it!

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  1. lovely post. I really like the reminder that walking without a goal and simply looking, being open to surprise, is a wonderful thing.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks John!

  2. Happy New Year Robin. I’m giving the TSE a miss this year as well. Can’t believe it’s a year since we were there last. Hope to see you sometime this year. Best wishes, Peter

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thanks Peter – yep, a year gone quick…HNY to you too, cheers 🙂

  3. Mat Riches Mat Riches

    Hi Robin, I don’t know if it’s any good to you, but I work near Chancery Lane. If you fancy a coffee at any point let me know…

    PS.Fantastic news re OWP. I’ll have to renew my subs…

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Hi Mat, thank you! Nice suggestion, I may take you up on that, cheers.

  4. I’m really enjoying being in the same workshop with Katy Evans-Bush. It’s such a pleasure hearing your poems.

    You have got me thinking that I should starting walking back to Euston from Farringdon afterwards. Provided I can resist the lure of The City Pride pub.

    • Robin Houghton Robin Houghton

      Thank you Caroline! Since that first session I’ve only walked from King’s Cross to get to the workshop, as I’ve met people afterwards for drinks etc. But come the Spring weather I’ll get my comfy shoes on again 🙂

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Robin Houghton 2021