It is raining in the city when we go in
you call us over to sit at your silvery table.
We shrug off our coats, gather our wine.
You and I are reading. You are famous. I am not.
You show me your nerves, take them out to air
subduing mine, ‘Be brief, that’s the key,’ you say
‘people get fed up otherwise,’ then as if by way of
something ordinary, something you forgot to say earlier:
‘Had bad news today, my consultant told
me he was sorry, ‘Sorry Julia,’ he said, ‘it’s spread
to the liver.’ We draw in breath, spill regret,
we do not rant or rave or collapse in a public place.
All three, we drink our wine. You stand to read,
words like miracles, operations performed
without incision, scions of faith and hope. You keep
it brief. ‘She goes on too long,’ you say of the poet.
In the doorway ash accumulates at our feet
and even though I’ve given up smoking we share
another rollie and wonder at the turning sleet.
Saying goodbye you begin to fret on the journey home.
You wave us off. We leave the city streets past
pools of yellow light and sheltering walls, the motorway
is silent, the way ahead turning to glass and white,
under the weight of snow how life becomes so small.
I began to write my first novel after a weekend workshop led by Julia Darling and Wendy Robertson in Bishop Auckland Town Hall. I hadn’t been sure about going. I was seriously lacking in confidence, not sure I could write or even wanted to but the weekend changed that.
Julia had a way of enticing and exciting you, a way of responding to your work which made you feel it was worth going on with, that you had a voice. Later, she was the first person apart from my friend and mentor Wendy, to say publicly, in her words, that I was a talented writer.