Sunday, 30 October 2016

Khorezmian desert, Uzbekistan

My favourite part of the Uzbekistan tour: lunch in a yurt in the Khorezmian desert, near Urgench. Then when the rest of the group climbed up to see the Topraq-Kala fort ruins, I stayed behind. No one else, except a camel which padded by ignoring me. A view for miles and miles of desert, piercing light, knife-like cold.  Utter silence. Bliss.

Saturday, 29 October 2016


My husband and I have just got back from an amazing tour of Uzbekistan, on part of the Silk Road: Tashkent,  Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. The very names, especially the last, sound exotic and conjure Kubla Khan of Xanadu.  'Where?' asked my friends. Or worse,  'Why?'  We had loved the Islamic tiles and architectural influence in Andalucia. Photos in Uzbekistan guide books showed the stunning turquoise of domes, the blue and white, or blue and gold geometric designs on mosques and madrassahs. It looked wonderful.

But the more I read up about the place, the more I regretted our decision to go:  the cruelty of the Khans who had criminals and adulterous women thrown from the minarets, the pyramids of skulls that Tamberlane left outside defeated forts, the horrible fate of the spies Connolly and Stoddart (during the 19th c Russo-British scramble for Central Asia) thrown into a pit full of scorpions and snakes, until finally after months, brought out to be executed. Occupied by the Soviets, it only achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A week before we left, their first and only President, Karizmov died. We wondered about its stability. The Foreign Office website was not encouraging.  Health hazards and terrorism. But too late, we had paid our deposit, so with sinking hearts, we went ahead with it. 'There've been 30 terrorist attacks in London last year. It's probably safer in Uzbekistan,' said my husband.

And then I had a fall, on slippery gravel in the rain, two weeks before the trip was due. I became crippled with pain and was temporarily unable to walk. It looked as if Fate had stepped in and I would be able to escape the trip and get my money back through insurance. 'You go by yourself,' I encouraged my husband. 'You need a holiday. I don't mind.'  I really didn't.

My xray showed nothing broken. It was thankfully only bruising and my doctor gave me the thumbs up for the journey. Also with the wonderful Special Assistance Service of the airports, a wheel chair could be provided to zoom me through the miles of Heathrow.  And the tour company, Cox and Kings, also offered to provide a wheelchair for me throughout the trip.  So only two days before the trip, I had no excuses left.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Poetry on the Lake Festival, 7-9 Oct, 2016

View of Isola San Giulio on the lake from Orta SG

Returned for another wonderful long weekend, despite rain but one day of sun at the Poetry on the Lake Festival
by Lake Orta (north of Milan).  This time I was delighted to give a reading upstairs in the Pallazotto
(see below).
Good to see old friends who come year after year and to hear the winning poets, Sharon Black,
Pat Borthwick, Rachel Plummer, Chris Considine, Katherine Pierpoint  amongst them at the awards ceremony
 in Omegna. Carol Ann Duffy, Imtiaz Dharker and Gillian Clarke also read.

The Pallazotto, Orta St Giulio.
View from my hotel in Orta SG.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Seamus Heaney Homeplace Opening Weekend

               The foyer of the Seamus Heaney Homeplace, Bellaghy, Northern Ireland.

It was with marvellous serendipity that I happened to be in Ireland and able to go to the opening of the Seamus Heaney Homeplace - not far from my sister's home. So we two drove up to Bellaghy for the Saturday of a weekend of great events.

A statue of a man digging is the first thing we noticed as we entered the village (of course a reference to Seamus' most famous poem). The Homeplace is like a vast cattle shed as you approach - appropriate enough though rather ugly, but turning the corner to its front it's not too bad.

Inside is wonderful - a lovely photo of Himself greets you at the entrance to the exhibition and upstairs is more of the exhibition and a theatre/conference hall and cafe. The exhibition is charming - they have his school desk, complete with bench and ink well and his well-worn dufflecoat.  Photos of his family and locals up against relevant poems in large print. You can listen to the soft burr of his voice on an audio 'wand' reading the poems. I was moved to read again the poem, 'Half-Term Break', about Seamus' younger brother, Christopher, who was killed by a car and to see a photo of all the children, including Christopher who has blonde tousled hair and is being restrained by an older sibling as if the child, with the irrepressible energy and restlessness of a 4-year old was about to run off.

Upstairs we watched a video of Seamus at the Nobel Prize ceremony and saw the impressive phallanx of waiters coming down the sweeping stairs with silver platters held aloft, and then Seamus reciting his poem about the silent intimacy with his mum peeling potatoes. What a wonderfully humane and down-to-earth man he was, to read a poem of such simplicity about the most basic and important things in life - the love of mother and son - at such a prestigious ceremony, when a lesser man might have been tempted to recite something pretentious. There were also photos of Seamus in his writing attic with the skylight behind (with the relevant poem nearby) and several portraits.

We heard the poets Tom Paulin and Christopher Reed, the latter also Seamus' editor at Faber, reminisce about Seamus  but did not manage to attend other events - our own family matters, like getting my nephew to his rowing practice, being of uttermost importance. I'm sure Seamus' benevolent eye looking down on us would approve.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Razzle Dazzle on SoundCloud

Performing 'Razzle Dazzle Cabaret' for film made by Prestonfield School pupils
at Leith Docks in front of the new Dazzle ship designed by Ciara Philllips.

To hear me read, click  Razzle Dazzle Cabaret. This will also lead to all the other recordings too.

Marjorie Lofti Gill's intro to the SoundCloud recordings:

Ciara Phillips’ Every Woman, co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and 14-18 NOW, is the fourth in a series of ‘Dazzle’ ship
designs developed by contemporary artists to commemorate the First World War.
This poem is taken from Signal - a collection of poems written by female writers, edited by Marjorie Lotfi Gill and published by Edinburgh Art Festival. The recording was taken at a public reading of all 20 poems at Edinburgh Bookshop in August 2016.
The word dazzle made Stephanie Green instantly think of the film "Cabaret" and the song "Razzle Dazzle". Her poem is written in the voice of a cabaret artiste.
Copyright of poems rests with individual authors.
Edinburgh Art Festival
City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1DE
Registered charity no. SC038360
Company registration no. SC314596

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