The travel from Rye to Newcastle was gorgeous but long, all and all about six hours. I think it is funny I say now that it is a long journey considering it takes more than that to get across the state I am from or that it is the distance it takes to get from Bellingham, WA to Portland, OR. I am sure in many ways it felt particularly long because here at the end of two weeks on the road in my eighth city of the England bit of the tour I am truly exhausted. This extreme exhaustion was not aided by the incredible thunder and lightening storm in Rye that kept me awake from 3-5 am before travel. I am used to a storm rolling through, but this one seemed to sit on the village of Rye for hours with the most beautiful lightening strikes and thunder that shook the walls.
So when I arrived to Newcastle last night and checked into my hotel (a treat I thought I would be deserving of and needing at the end of this part of the tour) I completely crashed. I lay on the bed watching the trashiest of telly until I forced myself out for food and too tired to make decisions ended up back in my giant bed with a dinner of crisps, sparkling water, and chia seed porridge made with coconut milk.
This morning I am writing from a coffee shop. Eating a breakfast of scrambled eggs and and toast as I was greatly in need of protein. I am heading off to the Laing Art Gallery this morning, my favourite thing to do in a city is to walk in the silence of looking and observation at the art. This afternoon will be transcribing handwritten edits from chapters of the dissertation to the computer before reading this evening at the Newcastle Literary Salon.
I am excited to be ending the England part of the tour at a salon themed “The Body” this evening as it is so fitting with my book. And then it is home to Glasgow before Ireland. I love Ireland with all my heart and know after a few days of recovery in my own bed I will be ready for all the excitement of Dublin and Belfast.
ON ARRIVING IN RYE 24-6
During the duration of the train journey here from Brighton I have been reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Life of Charolette Bronte and I find myself now or at least my thoughts swirling in the language of this book. Rye has been a bit of a funny stop on this tour of mine. It had come highly encouraged by two drunk men from Rye at The Pot Still in Glasgow who insisted I add it to my tour. I am here now and enjoying it immensely.
My AirBnB host informed me of the rich history of the town: the occupation by the Normans, the French cathedral, the Castle, and Henry the II’s stay in the town during the 12th century. And so I walked around taking in the beauty, just about an hour in all to really see it. I find myself quite engrossed with the placard that marked the home that Henry James wrote several novels in, though it was destroyed during WWII.
I will say that after almost two weeks of being in bustling big chaotic cities it is quite the lovely thing to be in a place that my host for the event tonight called “sleepy, but beautiful.” And it is, it is just that. It is also an absolute thrill to be in a place so small that there is no need to look at the map on my phone to find my way around. I think this is a place I would certainly like to visit again.
I decided for the most part to take the day off today. I had really big plans of going for an epic long walk down to the museum and around the pavilion, but when I woke up I realized how incredibly exhausted I was and despite my greatest intentions my body could not be convinced and so I spent the day doing research for the Dublin and Belfast parts of the tour and looked up open mics in Brighton and now have found my way to the Marlborough Pub and I couldn’t be more thrilled. As any kind of artist I think there is always a wonderful moment when you find yourself with an audience that feels perfect. I do like reading to audiences that my work might challenge, but this far into the tour and with the extreme exhaustion of the day it feels really amazing be somewhere that feels like home. To be able to read to a crowd that my words will truly impact, an audience that will understand.
Somehow today felt remarkably normal, normal in relative terms to what my life in Glasgow is like. Staying in a flat by myself has been a joy, perhaps that had something to do with it. So I woke this morning had a coffee, checked and responded to some emails, did what I call “PHD LITE” and then headed off to a cafe to work on my dissertation. It was lovely, the distance I had been taking from my writing leading up this tour has paid off and by the end of two hours I had written lots of new words and worked my way through editing three chapters.
I suppose the only part of my day that wasn’t normal is that I got a tattoo, though it isn’t uncommon for me, just not a daily activity. I got the tattoo to commemorate the tour and the accomplishment of finally getting my book into print (with the gracious help of Cal and the lovely cover by Claire) My tattoo artist was amazing and we spent an hour and a half chatting about politics, books, films, and art. And when we were done I looked to see the most beautiful pomegranate on my bicep. I have always been scared to tattoo my upper arms. My insecurities about their largess has always made me concerned, but I am grateful I made the choice to finally do it and with an image that is so important to me. An image that acts as a reminder to always believe in my work.
As a child of the Pacific Northwest the ocean is in my blood. In the town I was born in you could smell the salt on the air and hear the gulls crying from any spot you stood. So today as soon as I dropped and unpacked my bags a bit at the flat I walked to the ocean. To see it, smell it, put my feet in it, stare at it and contemplate and connect to home.
I think my body needed to be near the salt water, needed the ocean again and there is nowhere I would rather be than drinking my cider looking out at the bright turquoise water.
I should also say that today when I unpacked my bags where I am staying it was great relief to know for the first time in nine days I will be in one place for three nights. In the last nine days I have been to five cities and taken over eight trains, one coach, and three tubes. I have enjoyed the chaos of it all and all the experiences, but I think not only did my body need the ocean, but it also needs a moment to stay still.
So tonight, although it is the solstice and the evening is sunny. After one more cider I plan to find a shop to buy some food and go back to this flat to watch The Favourite. Watching this film is long overdue, I had tried to see it in the theatre and could never make it happen and now I have had too many people tell me I will love it. I am going to celebrate the first time I have been alone in nine days by staying in on a sunny evening and watching a film. Happy Solstice!
SOME ABOUT OXFORD DAY TWO MANCHESTER AND ARRIVING IN LONDON 17-6 through 20-6
Well I am a bit behind on this whole writing about the tour thing. This is probably why I have never done a blog before, not able to keep up getting words from my journal to typed and then onto a website. So I thought to sum up the last few days I might offer a list:
- An amazing Oxford Crowd
- Dancing and drinking till 4am
- A mysterious bruise on my hip
- Unexpected and connection through conversation on the train
- Meghan, my dear friend Meghan
- Alice in Wonderland Tea
- An Art Gallery
- Fleabag, why did it take my so long to watch this
- Tiny buns filled with mushrooms
- Dissertation edits, new writing and discarding of writing
- Sweat and more sweat of a London Underground
- A broken wheel on a suitcase heavy with books
- Anna, my dear friend Anna and her extreme kindness
- A porch covered with growing green things in the middle of the city
- Anticipation at reading in London and grateful heart for the faces I will know in the crowd
The unspoken thing about a poet being on a book tour or at least the kind of poet I am is that last night ended with copious amounts of alcohol and my handing out of books in exchange for few drinks to people I met in the pub. It means that today the bus ride from Cambridge to Oxford was a nightmare and brutal. I love the train more, but had opted out of it as it would have required a traversing of London and my almost unmanageable suitcase. The bus is cramped and the constant rocking left me almost seasick.
I made it though, to Oxford, and ate and slept. I laughed quite a bit at myself here for the absolute privilege I now have in my life to decide not to explore Oxford today. Any why didn’t I, because I have been here several times before. I did what my body decided it needed to do and that was to sleep.
But now I have found myself to The Old Bookbinders Ale House to read some poems at an open mic. Open mics always scare me because you never know who is in the crowd and I know my poetry can be challenging. But I like reading poems at nights that are mostly music and I am hopeful that even just a few people find my words moving.
I started the morning with breakfast in the cemetery. Coffee and a spinach and goat cheese pastry. From there I made it my mission to see the college. I had thought it might be nice to stay in bed and read today and work on my dissertation, I pushed myself out and I am glad I did.
I thought the the cathedral at University of Glasgow is impressive, but wow King’s College Chapel truly is amazing. I am not religious, but am always awe struck by the architecture and stained glass. As I walked from my flat to King’s College I was struck by two things on the path there.
- That the stores along the way are all so modern, primark, new look, etc, juxtaposed with traditional stone architecture, It is something I have noticed in Glasgow too and I just find it such an odd mix.
- The other is something that I note now and don’t feel I have any real place with which to offer more than an observation was the extreme homeless population of Cambridge. People sleeping in doorways, in the park, gathered in groups and it is such a clear distinction in Cambridge of those with money and those without. I gave a granola bar to one person and a quid to another. The main thing I want to say is I can’t be the only one who noticed this.
Once I arrived at the College and explored the chapel I could see the river and the punting boats and I could hear my dear friend Gilly in my head. You have to get into one of those boats when you are there she had told me before I left. It was 14 quid and I have to admit money has been a constant source of stress on this trip and slowly selling books has made that stress even greater, but I could hear her voice and decided to go for it.
It was amazing and such a beautiful and relaxing way to see the college and to learn of all the famous graduates and I even saw baby swans. It in all honesty was the most relaxed I have felt since leaving Glasgow on Wednesday.
I have made it to Cambridge-the land of intellect and knowledge. I have been warned by my Irish taxi driver and my French Airbnb host that Cambridge is quite middle class and it will be interesting to see how people react to my poetry. They both said they think I will do better up North in Manchester and Newcastle. So with a sense of pride I think, here is to living up North in Glasgow!
On the train from Stevenage to Cambridge the gravity of what I am doing, the absolute risk of it, the semi-craziness of this whole tour business hit me. I dealt with it by staring out the window. The English countryside is lovely, lush, and green with sheeps, cows, and horses everywhere. The view was aided today by the rich and vibrant sun.
On my path to finding a pub this evening I walked through the most beautiful cemetery I have ever been in. They’ve let it grow free: wild grass, wild flowers, Ivy, and bright red poppies have reclaimed and taken over the tombstones and I will admit it made my love this city. After a solid three days of people, I needed the calm, quiet, and peace that only a cemetery can provide.
I have now found my way to The Cambridge Blue and I am awaiting a tofu pie with great anticipation as my lunch of hummus, carrots, and crisps sustained me until about an hour ago. All the accents here are so posh and I find myself missing Glasgwegian. More than the accent I am missing the people. I never really feel alone in Glasgow because everyone is up for a chat and laugh. There is a sense you can walk out your door and make 5-10 acquittances simply waiting for and riding the busy.
But I like it so far and despite missing things and despite the middle class warnings I am hopeful that tomorrow night will have at least a few people there who are up for some unafraid controversial poetry.
P.S. My dear lovely friend Carter face timed me from America this morning, words cannot describe how much it helped my spirit to see his beautiful face and hear his laugh. During our conversation he asked if all the pints here are warm, I laughed and told him that is a myth. Well, jokes on me, I am currently drinking a cider that is warm.
I opened the door to the pub ready to walk to my flat and there was a massive bike protest, extinction rebellion. I unintentionally became part of the protest and I am so grateful I did. I walked alongside them with tears pouring down my face. Protests always get me: the collective emotions of people unified in cause and voices raised together in a chorus always overcomes me. So I found my way back to the cemetery to sit and reflect. The voices of the extinction rebellion bikers is echoing from streets over, carried by the wind to a little spot of solitude I found.
My body decided that 6am was the best time to wake up today, but I fought it off until I pulled myself from the single bed I am staying in. I have determined that the in the mornings before events I will enjoy the fact that this tour is more than reading from and selling my poetry collection. It is a chance for me explore cities as well.
I have been to York twice before and so was determined this morning to see new parts. I walked to The Minster and admired it from the outside, I felt the 9 quid to go inside wasn’t worth it and so I found myself at the Art Gallery and I am so glad I did. On the ground floor was an exhibit of Turner and Ruskin pieces inspired by storms and clouds. I realized after looking at a few that although I admire the artistry, landscapes just aren’t my thing.
So I found my way to the Aesthetica Magazine exhibit on the Anthropocene. I lost myself in it for well over an hour: thought provoking, heartbreaking, uncomfortable at times. It wasn’t how I had intended to spend the morning, faced with the intensity of our current social and cultural struggles, but I couldn’t walk away and am still processing it all.
From the museum I wandered the walls and slowly found my way to a vegan restaurant, stopping off at two bookshops along the way (resisting the urge to buy as my suitcase already weighs well over 50lbs) . Most of my life when I travel I eat absolute crap food, but I am resolved this trip to stick with my vegan inclinations and so have looked up places in advance.
I write now from True Story, I will admit I picked part for the menu and part for the name, after inhaling a plate full of hummus, spinach, avocado, tomatoes, and mushrooms. My belly thanks me I am sure.
I texted with my friend during the many train delays and she said that she sees travel delays as the universe telling her that she must really want to end up at her destination. Sadly, I did not get this message until I arrived in York as my phone refused to connect to the internet on the train. It might have helped me to read it.
The journey started with a lovely two seats to myself. My backpack perched next to me, a cup of coffee, and the intimidating draft of my dissertation in front of me. In Edinburgh the announcement was made that someone had jumped in front of a train and additionally there were lines down due to severe winds. Our train would be boarded by the passengers of three trains that had been cancelled. My hopes of a peaceful journey shattered, the two women across from me I had been chatting with and I spied an empty table and as quickly as we could moved ourselves there to stake a claim.
Heaving is a new Scottish slang word I have learned. To be full, overflowing, and over capacity. I will tell you then the train was heaving. Full of confusion, anger, and frustration I was accidentally hit in the head by a backpack more than once. When they announced our train was to be cancelled in Newcastle and our now 4 trains worth of passengers were to board the train behind us, I decided to just say “Fuck It!” I needed off the train, needed to pee in a toilet that wasn’t moving, I needed a coffee and a smoke. I left that station and felt as though I had been just released from a cage.
I love train journeys, I always have, but this train journey had been restrictive and claustrophobic. I gave myself an hour to get that warm drink, indulge in chain smoking, stretch my legs, and take in the freshness of rain. When I finally decided to venture back to the heaving trains I found myself perched on my suitcase just outside a toilet on the edge of first class. I think I have spent most of my life on the edge of first class, I think most of us have, but it was peaceful there, with the exception of the occasional glance from someone going into the toilet. I was in a bubble of music and staring out the window at the English countryside. Perhaps not getting my friends message was actually ok, because in the moment of staring out the window and listening to The Darjeeling Limited Soundtrack I understood that all the delays and heaving and stress were worth me making here to York.
Now, writing, where I have polished off a Laphroiag and am currently slow sipping a cider. I am outside in the beer garden at the first pub I could find when I walked away from the flat I am staying in. My only interaction so far has been to order drinks and with a homeless man who came looking for smokes in the ashtrays and who I lovingly passed my tin of roll ups to. We had a conversation while he rolled, about his lack of housing and his curiosity at my accent and life in Glasgow. He left with well wishes to me for my education and me to him for getting a council flat with an additional “take care of yourself.”
Another friend had texted me that I ought to go the a pub tonight to talk up the book, my poetry, and the event tomorrow night. After a day of heaving trains, this conversation was the only one I needed before returning to my room in someone else’s home to eat a falafel wrap and watch some telly before sleeping and a day of exploration before performance tomorrow.