This is not about Brexit or any politics. And that’s not because I’m hiding from those topics, although I am a bit, but rather because they heightened something good. They made me appreciate something I’d forgotten was a big deal for me: the fact that this thing happened in the middle of that thing, just reinforced for me what I find special.
It’s only this. I profoundly relish being with colleagues late at night and having a drink after we’d done something big together.
Now, it does most definitely work best when those colleagues are my friends but they tend to become so in this late night moment. (It is scary how many friends I make through working with people. How many people I get to know and cherish when they hire me. I was saying to someone this week that she’s dear to me and I’m expensive to her.)
It doesn’t have to be all that late at night, either. I was doing this last night and it was only around 10pm. It was only for a short half an hour, perhaps less, and it is better when it goes on but last night’s was rather perfect.
Then when I said drink you inescapably assumed I meant alcohol and that was true last night. (I don’t drink but we were in a bar.) I do think it’s even better when the drinking is of builders’ tea and you’re gathered around a kitchen table. That’s where I first found this.
I found it many times after a regular weekly late-night hospital radio slot where a group had come together to make something. It wasn’t the most diverse group in ages or genders or anything really, and the greater the differences between the people, the better. There is something glorious about a lot of people coming from different backgrounds, with different hopes and aims, all focusing their every effort on the same thing.
That’s what makes the thing big. Not its size or scale or importance but actually, yes, its size, scale and importance to me. To us.
Last night I co-produced Private Moments, a poetry and prose event, with Charlie Jordan. I’ve known her for years, always wanted to work with her, finally got to do it – and to work with something like a dozen poets and storytellers. It was always going to be good: you just know when someone’s idea is right and will fly. It was always going to be an excellent night because Waterstone’s in Birmingham hosted it. A poetry and prose event in a bookshop. With chocolate.
But there was a point where I thought I would only be able to help produce it, that I wouldn’t be available to actually tell a story or eat the chocolates.
Between you and me, I was glad and hardly at all because I’m trying to lose weight. Instead, this lineup included poets and storytellers I’ve known and admired, it included ones I’ve just admired, and there were something like four former Poet Laureates in the mix. I was chuffed at working on an event that featured Charlie and also Matt Windle, Roy McFarlane, Cat Weatherill, Sarah James, Gary Longden, Jenny Hope, Lorna Meehan, Maggie Doyle and Marcia Calame, now officially my favourite person in the world.
She’s that because of what she said of my performance. Because I did perform. I was available in the end and I did perform and, oh my lights, that great list of names was now a daunting list instead.
I really do want to urge you to do this late night kitchen table tea with friends but I want you to have that same wind at your back. Sitting there like you’ve earned a spot, that you’ve all worked together and you’ve earned that drink.
I did a pair of short theatre plays once, vignettes in a whole evening of performances, and one time I was the star of the night. Really clearly the best writer with the best piece and that post-show gathering was brilliant. The next time I was the worst writer with the worst piece and that post-show gathering was crap.
This is better than both of those. A late night where you can stand your ground with people you do admire but also just really like. No comparisons of quality because you all stepped up. No post-mortem discussions of the evening, just good people and good conversation and your warmly sore back from having worked hard.