As usual, the Ilkley Literature Festival has been full of sparkling events. I was thrilled to be able to participate this year. We had our event last night at the Ilkley Playhouse, ‘we’ being myself and the Leeds Survivors Poetry Group. I did a talk and readings from ‘The Dark Threads’ for the first half of the session, and then five members of the poetry group read out two of their poems in turn. Ian my husband was, as always, a brilliant support and I love him lots. He sat at the back of the theatre, manning the bookstall.
My book is obviously about a difficult and painful time in my life. What happened to me, and to many others, was wrong. I wanted to write a serious book with a serious message, and I believe I have done. However, without downplaying this, it seemed appropriate on this occasion to focus mainly on humour and hope. Most of the extracts I chose showed the courage and strengths of the patients I used to know, many of whom had a great sense of humour despite the often immense difficulties in their lives.
I must have changed a lot because I didn’t feel scared to death as I stood on the stage behind a lectern with a microphone. I’m not used to a microphone and it was interesting to do my parrot impersonation into it (not good for my throat though – think I need a Strepsil).
Here’s an extract from ‘The Dark Threads’ in fondest memory of Popsy:
Even the hospital parrot had a sense of humour. In part of the grounds surrounding the hospital there was a small aviary which housed, among other birds, Popsy the parrot whose party piece was to say ‘O be joyful’ to the watching groups of depressed patients.
‘O be joyful,’ Popsy said as Georgina stuck her face near the mesh to get a closer look.
‘Don’t you “O be joyful” me,’ Georgina said crossly.
‘O be joyful. O be joyful. O be joyful,’ the parrot squawked, running backwards and forwards along its perch.
‘You horrible creature. I’ll wring your neck if you don’t shut up,’ Georgina said, sounding as if she meant it, but then she turned to me with a smile. ‘Oh, listen to me arguing with a bloody parrot. I’m so miserable and bad-tempered today, I don’t know what to do.’
‘What to do? What to do? O be joyful,’ the parrot suggested.