OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was wondering what to write for my blog this week. I have a couple of pieces in hand, but couldn’t quite work up the hutzpah to post them.

The white page faced me down (it’s been doing a lot of that just lately). Then Eric Robson’s Radio 4 programme, ‘Provincial Pleasures’, I think it was called, came on Radio 4. It was about Norman Nicholson. Mr Robson will be at Bookcase (OH NO IT’S NOT!) in Carlisle on the 8th of January,(WELL WHERE IS IT THEN?) the centenary of Norman’s birth, talking about him. (BEHIND ME?  – NO! AT CARLISLE LIBRARY!  DOH!)  Following (at 4.30pm to be precise) will be Kathleen Jones, whose biography of ‘The Whispering Poet’ has just been published.

It’s an excellent read. An easy-to-read read, though it got less easy for me, as we neared the end. Biographies have to end on endings, and there’s only one type of ending that humans come to, which is their final one! There’s a sadness in reading of Norman’s death for one who knew him briefly that is perhaps not so painful for those who have missed only the poetry.

I don’t know if there are tickets still left, but events at the bookshop will run all day long, with Kathleen’s the last. I’m not sure how many tickets are left for Mary Robinson’s and my little celebration later in the day at The Wordsworth Bookshop in Penrith. We’re kicking off at 7.00pm… so if you are a glutton for Norman, you could come along after the Carlisle events are over!

I’ll be sharing some memories of Norman, along with poems, and comments recorded by him, for me, at his house in Millom during the late nineteen seventies (I’ve made a small number of copies of these for sale). Mary will be talking about his poetry, and his place in the literary landscape. We’ll have a short reading after that, because part of our interest in Norman, and particularly for me, is that he gave encouragement to me as a young writer, and influenced, then and later, the way I wrote, and the way I thought about writing.

Entry to the Wordsworth Bookshop event is free, but please do ring first to book, as space is limited.

The Radio 4 programme covered the ground we have come to expect where Nicholson is concerend: the comparison with Wordsworth; his relationship to and with the town of Millom and its people; his chronicling of the decline of industrial Millom. Already though, the impact of Kathleen Jones’ book could be detected, broadening, and deepening the discussion. Answering Eric Robson, she ventured an opinion on why Norman had stayed put in Millom. I sense that a cosy fudge – there’s a thought – has been drawn over this in the past, but the book explores the possiblity that the outside world was simply too scary, and the nest that Millom had become, too conmfortable. Though not touched on in the programme, Norman’s relationships with several women are put to scrutiny as well, and will surprise many of us I think.

Another area the programme looked at was that of Norman as ‘eco-poet’, a term that did not exist in his lifetime as far as I am aware, but an element in his poetry that I suspect will be progressivley more valued as time goes on.

Running through it all was the issue, contentious in his lifetime, and still relevant, of London versus the Regional, of the metropolitan versus the provincial, of urban against rural. Norman was conscious of it, and fought against it. Being featured on Radio 4 though, isn’t perhaps a victory over it! I think it was Eric Robson (or it might have been Lord Bragg) who rather succinctly said, more or less, well, that’s what you get for locking yourself in your attic for seventy years!

You can hear the programme on fan-dangled replay stuff…you know what I mean!

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