LIKE I say, I get around. Sometimes, though, I even surprise myself.
ENO's production of La Boheme is a triumph,
Basil Bunting was a major 20th-century poet, a crucial link between European and US modernism and the north-east of England.
Although his work was barely known in this country during his lifetime, his influence is evident today in the work of many poets from that region and far beyond.
When Bunting published Briggflatts in 1966, Cyril Connolly called it "the finest long poem to have been published in England since TS Eliot's Four Quartets."
But it's much more interesting than that as an epic combination of autobiography and history, the Northumbrian landscape, love and betrayal, St Cuthbert and Eric Bloodaxe, the last king of an independent north ("king of York,/ King of Dublin, king of Orkney.")
One of Neil Astley's first publishing projects at Bloodaxe was an LP record of Bunting reading the poem to the accompaniment of Scarlatti's Sonata in B minor.
Twenty-five years after Bunting's death, Astley has now brought out a new edition of Briggflatts (Bloodaxe, Â£12), including biographical and critical essays, a DVD documentary about the poet's life and a CD of Bunting reading the poem.
It's worth buying the book just to hear the extraordinary music of the poem in Bunting's own voice: "Brag, sweet tenor bull,/descant on Rawthey's madrigal,/each pebble its part/for the fells' late spring./Dance tiptoe, bull/ black against may./Ridiculous and lovely/chase hurdling shadows/morning into noon./May on the bull's hide/ and through the dale/furrows fill with may,/paving the slowworm's way."
There are bulls too in South Shields-born James Kirkup's A Berwick Bestiary (Red Squirrel, Â£6.99).
First published in 1971 it is a series of delightful, clever and quirky poems based on animal woodcuts by the Northumberland artist Thomas Bewick. The Peacock ("noctambulating rainbow! Screaming queen! Dragon in drag!"), The Common Cart-Horse ("Shaggy working lad,/your attitude all patience/and endurance,/slow as coal") and The Zebra ("Zany/pit pony/fenced in the/open/ prison of stripes" are all filled with arresting imagery.
Linda France is one of our very best poets. You Are Her (Arc, Â£9.99), her 10th collection, is a beautiful series of linked meditations on the landscape, history, people, fauna, birds and weather of Northumbria.
The opening sequence is about an accident which left her with a fractured spine and cracked pelvis. Dying in My Sleep, Frida Kahlo's Corset, Knitbone, The Break, Vertebra and The Goose And The Bottle are a marvellously sensual hymn to being alive, to the frailty and the strength of the human body and spirit.
There are gentle, wintry poems about ageing and mortality, flesh and bone, earth and sky like Sorrow, You Don't Know What Love Is and Cave Painting, in which "Certain crannies, my skeleton/is starting to show. In others/it's buried beneath an overhang/of freckle and pucker, lichen-glow/Sable-brushed, chiselled, smudged,/my body is a palimpsest of stone,/settling back into the earth/she came from thousands of years ago."
Love in Vane (Vane Women, Â£9.50) is an anthology of poems about love, written by members of the Vane Women collective, named after the arts centre in Darlington where they meet.
Like any group collection, it is a bit uneven. But there are some wonderful individual poems here about desire, intimacy and loss such as Dot Long's Dresses, Diane Cockburn's How To Seduce A Potential Boyfriend With Twiglets, Pru Kitching's Swings And Roundabouts, Marilyn Longstaff's Vest, Anne Hine's Not Angling But Tickling and Jackie Litherland's The Discovery.
Lindsay Balderson makes a stunning contribution with How The Cello Cried: "and how man and wife parted, each leaving the other bereft/and how bereft on the ocean bed lay their love's lost life/and how life foundered at rock-bottom drowned in grief/and how the notes of grief become love's leitmotif."