This is the last poem in the ‘Consultations with my Mother’ series.
It’s been a blast writing these and remembering the time Mum and I met Grayson Perry at the National Poetry Competition 2014….
VII – The Trouble With Ezra
Mum and I are in London
But I don’t like Afternoon Tea
My brother and I are treating her. We’re off to The Wolseley.
Since when don’t you like Afternoon Tea?
I don’t fancy all the cakes
You must be the only mother in the whole of the UK who’d turn this down
Well, I think I might fancy something savoury
Luckily my brother has been here before.
He knows (from extensive personal research)
That they have an all-day menu
You’re in luck Mum
We settle down, in our finery
Ooh look. Omelette Arnold Bennett
I roll my eyes at my brother.
He then decides against Afternoon Tea as well
Not you too?
Like mother, like son.
Well I’m going to have Afternoon Tea
Mum and I are going on to the Poetry Society’s Do afterwards
For the announcement of The National Poetry Competition,
I’ve been commended.
Yes. I’ll have one of those too
You don’t won’t to get too drunk Mum,
Especially when you are going to meet your idol.
He’s not my idol!
Grayson Perry is going to be there.
He’s one of the three judges for the Ted Hughes Award.
Mum can barely contain herself.
I wonder what he’ll be wearing?
Something fabulous I suspect.
Yes. But who will he be? Grayson or Claire?
Well I guess we’ll just have to wait and see
I’ll be watching her like a hawk
I bet he’ll go as Claire.
She looks wistfully up at the deco ceiling trying to imagine
My brother finds this all very amusing, but he would.
The last poetry thing I was invited to he came with me
And proceeded to tell everyone there that he didn’t ‘get poetry.’
Cheers Mum. Happy Mother’s Day!
When we’ve finished my brother walks us to The Savile Club.
Waves us off with a smirk as Mum bustles inside.
Hey. Wait for me.
We are on time, to the minute. I feel overdressed;
The fluoro jacket was a mistake and I hate wearing dresses.
Come on Eleanor
We go inside and Mum asks the way.
We are ushered along to the cloakroom.
What’s the rush Mum? Slow down.
I’m suddenly very nervous. All my childhood social anxiety
Comes flooding back as Mum proceeds with confidence
Down the plush carpeted corridors and spiral staircases
To hand her coat to the waiting attendant
There aren’t many people here yet.
I smile at a woman who I think might be a poet.
She doesn’t smile back.
I need the loo Mum.
Yes, me too.
I take refuge in a cubicle for a moment and think to myself
‘What am I doing here?’
I sit and contemplate my predicament.
Eleanor. Have you fallen in?
After few deep breaths and a talk to myself
I emerge and put some lipstick on.
Stop fiddling with your hair.
I give my best withering look at Mum in the mirror.
You look fine. Let’s go.
I follow her out and up to The Ballroom.
This is nice Eleanor
We round the corner towards the sweeping staircase,
And are hit with mirrors, gilt and cherubs
It’s all very opulent.
Perhaps I’m not overdressed after all.
I spot someone I know and wave.
There are bags for us with poetry related goodies
And introductions to be made.
Hello, this is my Mum.
Mum is all smiles and graciousness.
We make small talk and are introduced to
Judith Palmer, director of The Poetry Society.
I love this venue, the painted ceilings
I look upwards and miss the entrance of a woman
Who Judith moves immediately towards to welcome.
Shall we go up Mum?
There is a photographer looming on the stairs
We turn and Judith is there, with the woman, who I can’t place.
I know she is important from the way people are behaving.
We are introduced. I shake her hand,
She shakes my Mum’s hand.
Who was that?
She glides up the stairs and is photographed with minimal fuss.
Oh. I thought she looked like a poet.
Bloody hell! Alice Oswald.
Let’s get a drink Mum.
I force a smile for the camera as we ascend the stairs,
Dogged with regret for not having looked up
The poets shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award.
This is very swish
I head straight for the wine table and pick up two glasses of white.
Here you go. Cheers.
We clink glasses and I take a large gulp,
Mum is already scanning the room for people to talk to.
We shuffle off to the side and soon find a friendly woman
Who owns a poetry press.
What’s the order of things then?
I’m not sure.
Oh look, canapés.
Are you hungry again? I say reaching for a smoked salmon tartlet
Well I’m not going to turn down these!
The canapés are delicious and the wine flows
A little too easily as the room begins to fill
With the great and the good.
Have you seen Grayson?
Nope. Not yet.
I confide in the woman, tell her that Mum is here
Primarily to meet Grayson Perry.
No I’m not. I’m here to cheer on my daughter.
And meet Grayson
Our little circle grows in number as we meet
A variety of people from the poetry world.
I spot famous faces in the crowd,
Some whom I can place, others not.
I feel a little bit more relaxed.
It’s actually quite fun and Mum is on good form.
I should say hello
Mum has spotted Carol Ann Duffy
Well, I’m not sure that she…
Judith Palmer takes to the microphone not a moment too soon,
As I hand over another glass of wine to Mum and grab a passing canapé.
The announcement of the National Poetry Competition passes in a blur.
Readings, presentations and photos follow.
Well that was nice to meet everyone.
I feel more in the mood for celebrating, less anxious.
Did you get a photo Mum?
Mum is staring at something.
I turn and realise she’s seen Grayson Perry,
Resplendent in a multi-coloured haute couture dress,
Platforms, blonde wig and fabulous make-up.
Look! He came as Claire.
A moment of panic hits me as I see Mum gearing up to pounce.
Hang on Mum, I need to get a photo of you.
Carol Ann Duffy steps up to the microphone.
The Ted Hughes award is announced, much to Mum’s annoyance,
Grayson stands at the front with the other judges.
Andrew Motion receives his prize
I clap enthusiastically.
I am now feeling pretty relaxed and continue to drink
The delicious white wine that is perpetually poured in to my glass.
What a great evening
The group of women that Mum and I have befriended
Are really fun. We are all getting steadily more inebriated…
I look around the room.
One of the women points to the far corner.
Mum has reached Grayson Perry
And is introducing herself…
I walk-run across the room
Coming to an oh-so-casual stop
as Mum turns and says
Here she is. My daughter Eleanor
I shake Grayson Perry’s hand
Hello. Lovely to meet you
We’ve had a great evening, haven’t we Eleanor?
Yes. Yes we have.
I’m very proud of her.
She was commended in the National Poetry Competition,
Her pen name is Eliot North.
I smile. Grayson smiles. I pull out my phone.
Can I get a photo of you and my Mum?
Grayson chats away to Mum
As I try to make my phone camera focus properly
Whilst balancing a wine glass in my other hand.
Say cheese. Oh damn, it’s blurred. Hang on.
Mum and Grayson continue to chat.
Smile again. That’s it.
Mum says a final few words and we cross back over
To the women on the other side of the room.
Well that went better than I’d expected
Of course Eleanor. What did you expect?
I raise an eyebrow and show her the photos.
They are a bit blurred.
What a lovely man.
Yes he was really lovely.
Now I can relax.
We continue to talk to the women and the other winners,
Mum and I circulating and all of us taking advantage of the wine
That continues to flow as the cherubs, on their clouds, look down on us beatifically.
After a while I notice Mum is talking and laughing with two men.
I’m certain one of them is chatting her up
So I decide to go over and check him out.
Oh there you are. This is the poet Michael Horovitz.
Mum introduces me to the older gentleman,
The younger Mum tells me is his agent.
My head is starting to spin
Nice to meet you
I shake hands and try and work out what they are talking about.
The younger man, my Mum’s age, is definitely flirting with her.
Showing off even.
Ha Ha. Yes, that’s what I thought.
Mum is in her element.
Their conversation is about poets and poetry.
I catch some of the words and smile
At the man blatantly chatting up my mother.
‘Well with Ezra Pound, being right here in this room…’
The younger man says.
I look around, swaying slightly. Ezra?
Really. He’s here? I blurt out
Michael Horovitz and his agent look at me.
Mum raises an eyebrow.
Where? I look around.
Mum shakes her head and begins to extricate me.
It was very nice to meet you.
I think we might need to think about going home Eleanor.
What, but that guy really likes you.
Shh. He’ll hear you.
Ha. Is George Ezra really here?
I scan the room for the singer
Who’s George Ezra?
Oh Mum, don’t you know anything.
I think you might have had enough Eleanor.
Yes, I do feel a bit drunk.
We say our goodbyes,
We’re one of the last groups standing.
Well that was fun.
Yes, it was. I had a really good time.
We find our coats and chat to the Poetry Society Team
As they head to the pub, which Mum declines on my behalf.
What were those two guys talking about Mum?
She laughs and links arms with me,
We weave our way to Bond Street station.
I’ll tell you in the morning.
He fancied you, that agent guy.
Yes. Yes I suspect he probably did.