A Weird Week

It's been a weird week here at The Mill.  Very little 'air time' - just a jumble of to-ing and fro-ing and a haze of tiredness.  Perhaps its the super full moon, but I've not been sleeping well.

Our quest to find independent support for The Girl has expanded into Kafka-esque territory.  Apparently the British born, British passport holding children of Brits working abroad are to be considered immigrants. The Girl was summoned to an interview to inquire into her 'right to remain'.  There is, of course, no question of it since this is her usual place of residence and all her relatives but one (all British born British passport holders) live in Britain.  She is a British Citizen. This is where she belongs.  But she still has to prove, apparently, that she's not going to get on a plane to somewhere else tomorrow.  The fact that she doesn't have anywhere to go, or the money to do it is immaterial.

Even more bizarre - she's been sent forms asking for her employment history (she's barely 16), for her parents' employment history (she has no contact), for her partner's employment history (she's 16), her mortgage payments (she's 16 remember?), when did your family come to the UK (she's British remember?) and various other irrelevant bits of info (have you been divorced, widowed, separated etc)  that any vaguely literate person who read her application form would have known was irrelevant.  There's a helpline number on the forms, but it rang and rang and each time we were disconnected before anyone answered. Once we managed to speak to an actual person who promised to ring back but no one ever did.  The cut-off date was 2nd Feb (tomorrow) after which the whole process would have to be started again.  We hope we have finally sorted it, but none of us will be able to listen to Vivaldi's 4 Seasons ever again.

This 16 year old has 2 adults to help her through this process - what happens to the ones who don't?

Blue Door, Red Sun

I took the chance presented by one of the DWP visits to look at the Percy Kelly exhibition in Tullie House.  It's an amazing retrospective covering a long period of his working life.  He was a strange, troubled character, partly self-taught, a protege of the P & O heiress Helen Sutherland,  (who was also a patron of the Pitmen Painters in Northumberland). Kelly found it difficult to part with his work and sold few paintings during his lifetime, even though buyers were clamouring to get their hands on his work.  He corresponded with people , sending extraordinary painted letters - beautiful water colours illustrating events and places in his life.

One of the Painted Letters

Percy ended his life living in Norfolk as a woman called Roberta.  Being a woman, he said, freed him from many inhibitions and allowed him to be more aware of sound and colour.

Percy Kelly as Roberta

Workwise, it's been a busy time - I've had an abstract accepted for a lecture at the Katherine Mansfield Conference at Birkbeck College, London, in June, so now have to get down to the terrifying task of researching and writing it.  Then BBC local Radio contacted me and they want me to go in and record a series of pieces about my life story.  A sign I must be getting old!

And then on a train to London for the James Street Literary Salon, run by author and writing coach Jacqui Lofthouse and author Alice Jolly.  It was a good evening meeting old friends and making new ones.  It gets lonely up here in the north - you need to talk to other writers.  If only so much of it didn't have to be in London!  Jacqui gave a lively talk on motivation and some advice on how to prevent the business side of 'being an author' from taking over the creative side.  As most of us had just been wrestling with our tax returns, this really struck a nerve!

Roopa Farooki (and yes, she does look like this!)

Author Roopa Farooki  (check out The Good Children) won the multi-tasking award for finishing her 7th novel which looking after 4 children, doing a medical degree (she qualifies as a doctor next year) and lecturing on creative writing at Oxford.  Oh, and she does about 50 star jumps when she gets up in the morning.  How can I complain of anything ever again?


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