Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Telling Tales: My Future Was Described to Me in Detail by a Brisk Man, in a Town Famous for Making Carpets

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Telling Tales: My Future Was Described to Me in Detail by a Brisk Man, in a Town Famous for Making Carpets

Article excerpt

I clamber off a train at Kidderminster Station and my glasses glint in the late-afternoon sun. This is happening a few years ago, so my hair isn't completely white and I'm a little more rotund than I am these days. Some things don't change, though: then, as I do now, I'm carrying a bag packed with pamphlets and books of my deathless verse, because I'm hoping to sell them at my poetry reading at the library later. The train chugs away and I walk out of the station.

A man hurries towards me. If one word defined him, it would be the word "brisk". He is briskness personified, in the shining, multi-buttoned leisurewear of the recently retired. He fixes me with a gaze that is only slightly softened by the privet hedge of his eyebrows. He points at me. I stop walking and stand as still as a chess piece.

"You're Ian McMillan!" he says, his finger jabbing the air between me and him. I nod. "You're a poet!" he says. His voice is rising a little. It's not that he's shouting, but it feels like he has the capability to shout. Again, I nod. I feel that I should speak, so I say, "Yes, I am."

"You're reading your poems at the library tonight!" he says, his finger pointing up the road. This is so strange. My short-term future is being fleshed out for me by a complete stranger in a town in the Midlands famous for making carpets. I feel like a bare room that is being carpeted by a random stranger. I nod again.

A couple are watching us, nervously, as if the man were dangerous. I have to admit that I feel a little nervous, but I feel more intrigued. …

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