Daylight is precious in Grasmere. Today, for example, the sun will rise at 8:24am and then set at 3:46pm. This gives me seven hours and twenty-two minutes of daylight. Visibility is also quite low, especially today, when this is the view from my front door:
So it’s a good idea to awkwardly unfold and flatten the map by torchlight and plan your adventures. One of the advantages of the shorter days are the Ambleside Christmas lights. Between Kendal, Keswick, Ambleside and Grasmere, the switching on of the Christmas lights are staggered so that with a bit of luck anyone living locally can make each event. They are a cause for celebration, with a lantern procession through Ambleside with children and adults alike carrying aloft various rocketship and star-shaped lanterns through the streets in a festival atmosphere with market stalls, live music, spinning LED pinwheels and light-up swords.
Will Smith, lecturer in Canadian Studies and the poet Polly Atkin took me from Grasmere to Ambleside to the fireworks to soak up the atmosphere. Polly’s academic work is focussed on Dove Cottage and literary geographies, and she has two pamphlets out from Seren with a first collection Basic Nest Architecture in the works from Seren too, which will be – if her two other pamphlets are anything to go by – a stellar outing. As fellow university lecturers and engaged in academic research and creative output, there’s a strong kinship there for the highs and lows of working far from home and those we love, caring for and encouraging and inspiring students and our shared passion for our respective work and our subject.
Over the past few weeks, a question that comes up often from pupils is “What is it like to be a poet?” It’s hard to succinctly articulate the fact that much of it is taken up with crashing between the dimensions – on any given day you will need to be both a project manager, a teacher, a performer, a librarian, a technology whizz-kid, an academic, an accountant and a writer. If we tack on a few extras such as chef, scout leader, medical practitioner, safety expert, laundrette supervisor, detective, needlecraft wizard and driver, we’re probably getting close to the skills required for another key part of the human journey: parenthood.
Fireworks with their bursting lights and ricocheting crackles interrupting the icy-quiet night are analagous to 21st Century living. We get these furious, fire-lit burning moments of vision, love and awe in amongst all attempts to lead a normal life. So today I’m working on a poem on the subject of fireworks. Meanwhile, enjoy some of the sounds.
Also, here’s a quick plug for the Grasmere Players’ new production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ which is on December 15th – 17th at 7:30pm at the Village Hall in Grasmere.