It all began with a review in a small literary magazine called 'Mistress Quickly's Bed', a Preston-based one and successor to Alan Dent's excellent 'Penniless Press'.
In it was Ken Clay's review of my book of 'open field' poetry 'Moor Music' (Seren).......a bit late but particularly welcome, because it was completely positive, extraordinarily glowing ( and no.....I don't know him!).
The week ended with a very different review. Wales' Book of the Year winner Rhian Edwards savaged 'Barkin!' in 'Planet', though there were a few things she did admire in the book.
Of course, I was boosted by the first and deflated by the latter, but actually - having read it closely - it was so unevenly argued and ill-informed for the most part, that I couldn't take it seriously.
I have criticised books in reviews myself and not regretted it and , no doubt, she would claim likewise.
Now, I am reluctant to do book reviews and would much rather the role of mentor and report-writer for Literature Wales, whenever they ask me. I like to be helpful and constructive in both these roles, even when presented with a manuscript which is poorly-written (a rare phenomenon).
Without a doubt the most rewarding aspect of the last week in terms of poetry has been a rediscovery of 'open field', through a series of poems.
( I could well have been spurred on by that review).
At three in the morning before catching an early plane ( peering at the alarm, my Muse!), I wrote one and then another quite quickly, without the aid of alcohol or any other substances (unless you count Rennies indigestion tablets!).
Will I go on to write many of them? Already, I've a handful.....but it's hard to tell.
When I returned from a week away near Venice, there waiting for me were the proofs for my next book 'Question Island' : hard copy, just like the old days.
I spent two days reading thoroughly and checking for errors, red pen poised like my teacher days.
It's hard to believe that it's on the way after so long; a journey even more protracted than my last fiction for teenagers 'The Climbing Tree'.
I sent it to Pont, where Viv Sayer was full of praise and so helpful with editing it, as ever .
She was interested in publication, but it became evident that Pont were withdrawing from the teenage market entirely.
After their rejection I tried many London literary agents and large publishing houses, the single acceptance coming from a press who wanted me to pay a substantial amount ( they had insisted they weren't a 'vanity press').
Finally, I'm delighted and grateful to Sally R. Jones of Alun Books, who is bringing it out very soon.
I know I'm somewhat biased, but I'm proud of it.
It's very contemporary : set in this recession and focusing on a sensitive teenage boy, who lives with his mam, step-father and half-sister. The main thrust of the narrative is the boy's search for his real father and encounter with a strange island.
There are also important sub-plots in terms of his relationship with his English teacher Mary Croft ( a character, several years on, from my novel 'The Fugitive Three') and with a girl who is being bullied at his school.
Reading through the proofs was rather odd : it felt like somebody else's work, simply because I've written so little fiction since and wonder if I'll ever be capable of such a sustained piece again.
There are mysteries, secrets, hints and clues throughout and like 'The Climbing Tree' there's plenty to work out, even at the end.
I'm still conscious of the influence of one of my favourite fiction writers Bernard MacLaverty, who is an expert at the Great Ubiquitous Question-mark ( significantly, one of his best books of stories is called 'Secrets').
In the end we don't discover the truth.
In art, as in life.
And the lowest point?
After the untimely death of my step-dad, it was undoubtedly learning of the death of Alun Hughes at 92, who lived near Corwen in north Wales.
Anyone who has read 'Red Poets' magazines over the years will be familiar with his work.
He was a prolific translator to the end, especially from German, Russian and Spanish.
He was also a meticulous chronicler of poets forgotten and neglected and his articles on the likes of his friend and comrade Arnold Rattenbury in the magazine typify this.
I never met Alun and had only spoken a few times on the phone, yet every week one or two of his recycled envelopes would arrive, marked 'For RP Archives'.
He wrote the occasional poem as well : always direct and pithy. His poem about the Welsh Republican flag appears at the front of our issue 'Poems For a Welsh Republic' ( so rare, even I don't possess a copy!).
He was a life-long Communist, republican and for many years a Trade Union activist.
He hailed from Ponty originally and was always very proud of his Valleys
Alun will be greatly missed by all in Red Poets, but will live on in future magazines, with those translations and articles he sent.
ER COF ALUN HUGHES
Swallows, Alun :
winging those wise words
swift in patterns
of roads and rivers
to the south this summer.
Sharp quills, Alun :
tips for fine writing,
the lettering of daylight
dipping close to water
ready for autumn's flight.
Birds of paper, Alun :
each bearing your sign,
each translating the air,
the currents into languages
of the Continent and winter.
White markings, Alun :
plumage of packaging
homing to these Valleys
where you once belonged,
waiting for revolution of spring.