It had seemed like a really good idea to book for this series of "Great Writers" Talks at Peninsular Arts down in Plymouth. Head off across the edge of Dartmoor after work for a bit of cultural improvement on a Wednesday evening which is when my weekend begins after my three working days.
Except the first talk this week coincided with my last working day before a week's annual leave.
I can't decide which is worse, that day when you rush around doing about three days work in one in order to get out of the office, thus feeling far more in need of a break than you realised, or the day you go back and face it all again and the benefits of the break dissipate by 9.30am. I had
visits to do, newborn baby hearing screens to do, records to write up, phone calls to make, letters to write, appointments to make for the week I get back, GP's to catch and speak to, social workers to catch and speak to, the Mother's Union are giving away free holidays so I had to be a travel agent and find people who wanted them by next week's closing date, oh yes and filing, shredding, hand over the caseload to a colleague and so it went on and on and on...this is boring, everyone has their own version of this problem, but at this rate I'd be lucky to stay awake more than five minutes in a comfortable, warm, people-filled lecture theatre.
Suffice it to say I was late leaving but relieved to finally divert my mobile onto the office answerphone and walk to the white board in reception and ceremoniously write up HV A/L BACK 03/03/08. The angels were looking down on me as I threw the car into the luckiest parking space in Plymouth almost opposite the venue, rushed in and there was Claire Tomalin sitting looking calm and serene in readiness for what proved to be a compelling and fascinating talk on her book Thomas Hardy, the Time-Torn Man.
It worked like a dream, the rigours of the day faded and I was transported to Dorset and most specifically to the poetry of Thomas Hardy which I have largely ignored, but which Claire Tomalin presented as Hardy's forte and the foundation for his gifted prose. I sat there picturing my virtually unopened edition of Thomas Hardy : Selected Poetry and Non-Fictional Prose edited by Peter Widdowson on the shelf and determined to pick it up when I got home. Claire Tomalin's love of Hardy's poetry evident and infectious as she read several to us.
Included in those several, The Voice
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me,
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you had changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first when our day was fair.
And the whole room as of one was intently focused on the great sadness and guilt that Hardy felt after Emma's death.
There was a detailed and interesting look at Thomas Hardy's early life and that of his family and Claire Tomalin skilfully traced many of Hardy's attributes back to his parents and grandparents. I am enjoying The Mayor of Casterbridge so much that it's impossible to imagine another Hardy to better this one and now I'm wondering if there is a DVD of the old TV series which I may have watched but can barely remember.
A quick trip to Amazon and there it is.
Then I'm thinking perhaps we can squeeze in a trip to Hardy's cottage at Bockhampton as soon as it opens next month, because actually I'm on annual leave again. Suddenly I want to read, watch and see it all.
Meanwhile it is clear there is a real thirst for these events in Plymouth, the lecture theatre was packed, standing room only and a queue of ticketless people hoping to squeeze in.
Next week Professor Sally Ledger on Dickens and the People. I can hardly wait.