Other than unformed notes I hadn’t yet written the introduction to Benjamin Zephaniah for his appearance at The Queen Elizabeth Hall in London tonight. But the wild horses were gathering on the horizon.
I arrive home un-rested and unwritten after a five thousand mile overnight flight from South Africa. I unpacked and balanced the South African Masks upon their plinths around our home and then cycled to The Southbank Centre.
This is what I missed when away. I park in the riverside rooms where the artist
in residence are based and within seconds a camera crew and interviewer are
bungling themselves through the door. I’d scheduled an interview at 3.15pm for a
new initiative called LitUp Singapore.
I can hear the thunder of their gallop. My notes for the intro are rustling. The interview goes
as well as interviews do. And between five and six pm I call in the horses and they leave a trail of sentences. I then print them. I print the Benjamin Zephaniah introduction. It is exactly what I wanted it to be.
At seven pm I meet Benjamin back stage who is sat comfortably with Rachel Holmes in
the green room. By seven thirty five Benjamin saunters on stage to rapturous applause. He smiles “next time I introduce a girlfriend to my mum Lemn…Will you write the
introduction?” he tells me. He’s happy. I’m proud and he delivers a blinding set of poems to an audience in awe . Great to watch a master at work.
I pop up to the artists hang out in the RFH where I meet Thom Priestley, the son of the late JB Priestley whose book “An English Journey” had its relaunch in The Purcell Rooms tonight. I imagine if JB Priestley were alive he would’ve met with Benjamin to say hi. Benjamin would have joked with Priestley about his pipe smoking and Priestley
would have made some joke about weed. They would have compared notes about their respective events. An English Journey indeed.
I am exhausted. At 11pm I get on my bike, switch on the lights and cycle off and over
waterloo bridge, round Aldwych, up Holborn, through Islington onwards, onwards to Dalston into Hackney and finally home.