I'm writing with with news of a new book / charity project to be launched very soon.
People who've known me for quite a long time, or followed my work over the years, will know that I've undertaken several projects for Christie Hospital, where I was treated as a child. And this year could see the most exciting project yet, as I release my final collection of poetry (at least for quite some time) in conjunction with a charity walk, inspired by the ones I did a few years ago.
So, let's start with the book, which will be called 'Sketches from the Journey Home'. Wrapping up the themes explored in my previous collections, this set is divided into two parts: the first aiming to exorcise the darker subject matter of past writing; the second exploring a more hopeful trajectory. 'Sketches from the Journey Home' is a roadmap towards light, towards growing up, and towards finding a unique space in a world that all too often drowns out small voices and big dreams.
The book will be on general release later in the year, but initially is only available as a thank you to anyone who sponsors me / donates to the charity walk (suggested donation £7), with all proceeds from both ventures being donated to The Christie.
Previous fundraising campaigns for The Christie have been very well supported, and any donations for the walk / book this time would be very much appreciated. People are more than welcome to do so in person or by cheque (please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange alternative donation method). But if you wish to make a donation online, please click the Paypal 'Donate' button at the right of this page, just below the banner (making sure a postal address is included for book delivery).
The walk itself is very much inspired by the writing of the book. As I found myself looking fondly to the past, knowing that I was moving away from childhood, I started to think more and more about the fundraising walks, and how important they were to me. It seemed symbolic that, if this was to be my last collection of poetry, perhaps I should try one more walk too. It may not be my longest attempt in terms of mileage, but it seems like it could be the most personally significant. Not least because I'll be reprising the walk that started it all. Only this time, I'll be doing it back to front.
In the first week of June, I set off from Windermere in The Lake District, walking (via a slightly twisty-turny route) the 75 miles back to The Ship Inn, my old local from Freckleton, the village where I grew up. Whereas my previous treks were about escape and adventure, starting from my own front door with an impractical rucksack (usually filled with clanking real ale bottles, a few cold slices of toast, and a copy of The Hobbit), this time I will, quite literally, be making 'The Journey Home'.
Books should be available for dispatch in a few weeks time. If you'd just like a copy of the book and are happy to wait, it will be available individually after the walk. Please consider postage cost when sending sponsorship, but remember that a donation of any kind will be received with gratitude and thanks. I've included an image of my authorisation letter from The Christie at the bottom of this post.
I'm hoping this might be a good excuse to catch up with some old friends too, so anyone that wants to get in touch, or meet up, it'd be great to hear from you. In the meantime, I'll leave you with an excerpt called 'An Affair with Mr. Blair', which is about the optimism of growing up during the Labour boom years, and what came next...
An Affair With Mr. Blair
I read your letters from the early days,
brimming with the promise of a bright new era,
a manifesto with a smiling press shot,
nationally broadcast as a lonely hearts advert,
chanting aspiration, and we all knew the words,
high on the tailwind of a major cataclysm,
ever present in the bold optimism
of England's greatest achievements to date:
Cue holiday photos on windy council estates.
You personally freed Deirdre Rasheed
promised every pensioner a brand new hip,
a remastered Ugly Rumours 'Greatest Hits'.
It goes without saying,
we were the strangest of partners:
me, you, several thousand others,
documenting dreams from a damp little island.
But the sun shone for us that day in May,
1997 at the South Bank parade.
It's just a shame your finest hour
signposted decline, downfall, end.
Guess it all went to your head,
that infamous messiah complex
measurable in the quality of dinner guest.
I could put up with that Prescott chap,
the odd round with Brown,
it started to take the piss
when you had the bloody President round,
when you decided hardline opinions were unfashionable,
ditching left and right,
playing from centre,
like it was all a Sunday kickabout
beyond approval ratings and public attention.
You talked about counting sheep,
losing sleep over tactical necessities.
The first battle lost kept you up all night,
you chalked the rest to friendly fire.
It came to the point where you wanted to change the world.
I just wanted to change the channel
without casualties of war
on BBC News 24.
Once upon a time,
it seemed we sung from the same moral page.
Now all that looked like a power play,
which is why we had to go our separate ways.
Flicking through these love letters again,
back to a future preened by a marketing team,
much as I came to detest that grin,
I can't help but feel a tug on the heartstrings,
because all that fashionable spin,
that helped seduce the masses,
persuaded voters to elope,
resembles something like fond nostalgia,
at least compared to what we've got now:
sky-scraping scaremongering in The Daily Mail,
excuses for escapism in tabloid soaps.
It's only clear in hindsight –
that missing ingredient found.
Don't call it romance. Call it hope.