Sunday, 27 December 2009


He’s singing Last Fair Deal Gone Down. Every song the beautiful slender-fingered man ever recorded is mine for my delectation on 2-CDs. It’s been a great Christmas. I got some new boots too, so I’m all set up for the New Year. Lynda’s asleep and the house seems to echo emptiness now that Amy and Dave have gone back south.

I’ve acquired the body shape of Mr Pickwick. My old frame has suffered some major dietary abuse, over the past few days, in the form of whiskey, whisky, gin and cakes and cakes and gin and whisky and whiskey, but my much-depleted finances reassure me that this bloated frame will only be temporary. Just as well. Another few days of it and I’ll have to use a mirror to see which shoes I'm wearing.

The addition of the fabulous Ms. Emily Louise Tellwright on cello to Adam and my music-making is official and the way it is from now on. We are rambling 3-dom road, doods. ACW and me half-heartedly called ourselves Up to Scratch at first – you have to tag your product. We are now called: StringFing.

Emily told me that she met a fella from Heymaker days who has requested we do Please Don’t Drop Your Bombs On Me when he comes to see us at the Coachmakers on Wednesday January 6th. Yeah, oh yeah. Thanks dood. I’ll be pleased to do that song again. Especially now we are graced with the cello. There was a group of soldiers who turned up at the Arts Centre whenever they were on leave – I’m talking 1980s here – who always requested that song and sang along with it knowing the words as well as I did. I was curious about that. It’s anti all that stuff. They said, ‘But it’s about NUCLEAR war, man. No soldier likes nuclear war.’ Fair do.

Meant to tell you a while ago: my friend Liz Almond has another collection of poetry out. She is gentle and wise. Her new collection is called Yelp. Give it a read or four or five. It gets better with rereading like all good poetry does. Yelp is, as is said, available from all good bookshops. Liz was my personal tutor at uni. Read her poetry and you will know how lucky I was to have her as a mentor.

January’s issue of Cheshire Life has given half a page to me and my poem Homage to Cheshire. It rounds off my two years as Poet Laureate for the county. It’s the end of the scheme too. I suppose I could carry on calling myself Cheshire Poet Laureate until such time as the scheme is revived and I am officially replaced. However, enough is enough.

Although the people in the Cheshire Arts Service who inherited the project from the remarkable Liz Newall did not have her vision, commitment and flair and basically did bugger all that was positive beyond handing me the crown and a smooth handful of dosh (for which I am honestly grateful), the appointment has been brilliant for and to me. My 2010 diary bears testament to it’s ongoing benefit as the poetry gigs are rolling in. Once I sussed the lack of support I just got on with it myself and made it happen.

A few weeks ago, I hosted the awards evening of a poetry competition on behalf of de Winter PR for Adoption Matters North West at the Bank of America in Chester – have I mentioned that? I can never remember – I also delivered Mending Nets, the poem Adoption Matters commissioned me to write. I met two terrific poets there: Gladys Mary Coles and Jim Bennett. You should check them out. Terrific people too. Both of them are characters. Famous around Merseyside. You have to be good to be noticed up there. Jim’s into English trad too. Like me, he makes music as well and has a CD due to be launched soon. Google it, why don't you?

Jim noticed that I wasn’t (as he delicately put it) ‘widely published’ as a poet and very kindly mentioned me to a good man in the publishing business who connected me up with another good man who expressed interested in my stuff. But do you know what? I let it go, doods. I had a bit of an epiphany.

I ain’t an ambitious sort of a geezer – except when it comes to playing guitar in front of an audience when I am often a little over-ambitious – and I know I should push myself more in order to cement meself into a more comfortable position, but I can honestly say that I am happiest when I am doing my stuff locally. Community above celebrity every time, mates. Communal riches above personal wealth. That philosophy don’t always seem so groovy when my small harvest of food is being carried down the conveyor belt towards the great yawning gob of a Tesco till. It’s the creed I got, though, and it’ll do for me. Are you all right with your packing, sir?
Yeah, I would like more gigs as StringFing, more gigs as W dot poet-fella, more gigs as the Woodlanders Country Dance Trio (yeah that’s a threesome too these days) and more gigs with the other combos, assortments and liaisons life has fitted me up with but, above all, I’d like them to be local.

As far as the future publishing of my poetry is concerned, I will do it myself. That way I will have full editorial control. Never again will I allow myself, if I can possibly escape it, to be in position where someone like Ms. Sherman of the Arts Service can interfere with my text.

On the subject of publishing, me and Dave Wright went up to the Old Man of Mow and the castle yesterday. Dave took some more of his black and white photos for our Village Verse project – his foties, my pomes. Mow is my favouritest place. Inspires me every time. It’s got a unique and special vibe. Anyway, with luck, and provided I can get the gold together, 2010 will be the year Village Verse actually gets printed. Mind you, we’ve been working on it on and off for about eight years so I wouldn’t hold your breath.

Reading Village Verse and talking about Mow Cop is a gig in itself. I have done it a couple of times. The last one being at the beginning of 2009 for the U3A, Alsager Civic Hall. I love doing it and I plan to use Dave’s photos from the collection projected on the wall for future Village Verse gigs.

Hey, Robert Johnson has loved in vain and gone silent until tomorrow. I must get some sleep too. May no hellhounds get on your trail.


Wednesday, 23 December 2009


At last! for a while, and for some weird and undiscovered reason, I couldn't access my blog to post a new entry. But, thanks to the magikings of the remarkable Dave Wright, I am now enabled so to do. I haven't got time right now to write now. In the meantime:


Thursday, 17 September 2009

Down on Watford Farm

Hey, how are you? Lynda and I went down to Richmond in the capital city for a couple of days to stay with Phil Colclough. And captial it was. The weather is a whole pullover warmer down there. The Thames was looking magnificent - more beautiful than I remembered her. We went to Watford to see my skin and blister Marlene. We had seen Marlene in Llandudno earlier in the year when we all met up for dinner. It's well ages since I saw Watford town, though, and it's every bit as crap as I recall. I had to meet Phil at Watford Junction station. I walked there from my sisters - it ain't far - and I cut down the Bridle Path. Well it used to be called the Bridle Path. I don't know if it still is. Wow! what a dodgy walk that was. It's amazing how from another place you look when you step off your own manor. Loads of predatory doods about giving me the evil eye. I'm paranoid at the best of times (thank you Father Kif and Mother Skunk) but walking the back alleys of Watford brought it all back home. When ever I had a panic attack in the old days, I used to roll another spliff. What a mistake that was. I only use strictly legal drugs these days: the ones prescibed to combat high blood pressure, and also alcohol. Alcohol must be Ok, no harm at all. I mean, if it was dangerous in anyway, I'm sure it wouldn't be allowed. Weed must be far worse cuz it's banned, surely to goodness, innit?

Phil was on good form and Lynda and I had a great time. The big prize for me was the voices. When I told Amy that she asked me, 'The ones in your head or the ones outside?' Happily, campers, I mean the voices outside. The buzz of conversation in a Thameside pub brought nostagia home to me on a truck. Man, I could have basked in it for a week or two. The voices of the land that nurtured you must shape you in some way. It's funny cuz Watford, apart from triggering off some vague and uncomfortable mental state did nothing else for me.

My Watford, the Watford of my childhood: jumping off haystacks, crouched down weeding kale fields for 9/- a day (big big money, believe me), climbing trees, catching adders with a forked stick, fishing, falling in the river . . . just does not exist anymore. The first farm I worked on - a dairy farm - is now a housing estate. The entrance road to it is Cow Lane. But, as Seasick Steve says, 'That's all right. I ain't the same as I used to be either.' I miss it, though. There is something about working on the land that seems to make more sense of life. It seems a proper thing to do - something not based on airy fairy bollocks and bullshit. Although, I suppose it is literally based quite a lot on bollocks and bullshit, and fairies feature quite a lot in agricultural folk lore too. You know what I mean though, don't you?

It was good to see Phil and my sister too.

Songs of the Triassic Sea, my cycle of four lyric poems has been handed in to Spaces and has met with their approval. Great. A pleasure and a relief. It was so enjoyable to write. I wish I had commissions like it all the time. It ended up as a film script with a running time of around 20 mins and I am hoping to raise funds to get the film made. In the meantime, Ian banks is bringing his vid camera down to the Coachmakers, on the first Wednesday in October, to record parts ii) and iii) - Ram Your Spike and Winsford Town. These will be posted on YouTube and be the basis, hopefully, for attracting the funding for the full film.

Gotta go. It's National Poetry Day on Thursday 8th October and I've got loads to sort out.

Hope life is treating you.

In Stoke: Tez. In Watford and London: Tel.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

That Which Is Owed, etc

How now, folks?

A while back, I explained that Anne Sherman of the Cheshire Arts Service had stubbornly refused to let me have page proofs of my poetry collection ‘Somewhere in the Night’ and the ‘Homage to Cheshire’ anthology that (allegedly) I edited. In consequence, textual mistakes were allowed to go to publication. The result was two or three broken hearts and one extremely naffed-off Cheshire poet laureate.

It became apparent on its publication why Ms. Sherman had held the page proofs of my collection from me: she had made extensive, unsanctioned alterations to the text of the notes I had attached to my poems.

In my book (pun intended) for one to interfere with another’s intellectual property is an unforgivable arrogance and a literary offence second only to plagiarism. The ‘Homage’ anthology suffered along with it because Ms. Sherman could hardly have given me page proofs of the collective work whilst holding back the page proofs of my own work.

I made a promise to the offended ‘Homage’ poets that, by way of a small compensation, I would post their poems on my blog in their correct form. For my own peace of mind – and please forgive the indulgence - I will also post the original text of the notes of my collection. And this process, my dear blog-eyed mates, I will spread over time but starting right now:

Apologies to ANGI HOLDEN. Angi’s poem should have read:
A monument at Over St. John’s Church, Winsford,
commemorates the victims of The Over Cotton Mill Fire:
28th October 1874.

Solemnly figures crowded the Wheatsheaf
as spinners described the friction fire:
a single stray spark had caught the cotton slub
consuming the mill in a hilltop pyre.

Before the Coroner witnesses told
how a young woman burned, snagged by her shawl;
how, trapped four floors up, a girl flung her babe
to the crowd, then jumped. Both died in the fall.

They dug out the bodies of five more spinners.
So where, asked the jury, should the blame lay?
A community shattered; families made homeless;
three-hundred workers without jobs or pay.

No water was kept in buckets at loom-side.
But, said the coroner, none was to blame,
though a portable engine, kept on the premises,
might have helped willing hands douse the flames.

Friction from pulleys ignited loose cotton,
filling each stairwell with smoke as fire spread.
Cause: Accidental, the coroner recorded
against each of the names of the Over Mill dead.

Erected by public subscription, a monument
which shows how the value of life was so small
at a time when bosses were powerful, mighty:
this common grave by a churchyard wall.

- Angi Holden

I must warn you, dear readers, that I am doing my very best here but I am dyslexic and it is quite possible that I will present new errors as well as correcting old ones. Angi's poem in 'Homage' is punctuated differently and the last two stanzas are run together. Be sure to let me know if there are any errors in this representation, Angi.

Now a quick bit of justice for my ‘Somewhere in the Night’ collection:

My commissioned poem ‘QUESTION FOR WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY’ had the following foot note:

‘- Commissioned by the CCC for Friday 6th June 2008, World Environment Day. Not quite what was being sought from me, I think, but there was no way I could overlook this ludicrously self-defeating project initiated by a mayor of San Francisco.’

Ann Sherman deleted this and inserted in its place:

‘Commissioned by Cheshire County Council for
World Environment Day 2008’

I suppose my notes above only make sense if you know the poem. You can find it here in an earlier posting.

Hey, I feel better already.

I road tested two of my ‘Songs of the Triassic Sea’ with Adam at the Coachmakers last night – Ram your Spike and Winsford Town. I was pleased with how they went. It’s always good to do new material. Next month, hopefully, we’ll be doing them with Emily on cello.

Also next month (first Wednesday in October), Geoff Walton has promise to bring his bouzouki along – and play it, of course – and Martin Waters is going to play some flute with us. I can’t wait. I wish we played there every week instead of every month. You must come along. You’ll enjoy it. It’ll be an all-too-rare chance to hear Martin play.

There must be some discerning landlord or landlady of a good Cheshire, real ale pub who is up for paying me and Adam to gig there on a regular basis? Mid-week, we can easily be bribed with a few quid and free ale. Get in touch. Don’t waste another moment. You know it makes sense: Folk music (traditional and new), lyric poetry set to music, audience participation, invited musician friends coming along to take part, great, great atmosphere . . . need I go on? Well, get on the phone, then.

Alex played a good set last night. He sang, ‘Pretty Saro’, a trad. American version of an old English ballad, and three Macedonian folk songs. It’s terrific how music and the human voice in music can transcend language. Some old mates showed up at the gig, too. Always a pleasure.

OK. I’ve got to go now and sort out some poems to read as part of a concert that the Congleton Choral Society is putting on at Congleton Town Hall in October.

Does anybody remember a song of mine, 'The Numbers Game'? I don't have a copy of it. I know it opened with the words: 'The world abounds with trouble / it's the melancholy truth / nothing can be done about it / not a thing that's any use / somebody picked a number / too far back to blame / now we're running in decreasing circles / in the numbers game'. Adam likes the song and says I keep writing things that remind him of it. I often recycle my own material (tho' mostly intentionally) so it wouldn't surprise me. It would be nice if someone out there has a recording of it.

Got to go. Cheerio. Remember: take it easy – but take it.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Salt of the Earth

Lynda dropped me off at the church to say goodbye to John. We had a bit of diffulty finding the place. It's a rough part of town. A few yards from St. Benedicts, I didn't make way for another motorist quite as fast as he thought I should have done and he wound down his window to snarl something I didn't catch that ended with, '. . . you fucking werewolf.' It made me smile at the time (from the safety of our car) and I thought, 'Yeah, well, I suppose I do.' What a thoroughly unpleasant chap, though, what?

John would have been proud of his children. Mary gave a terrific eulogy in her father's honour. Her description of her dad's character described exactly the man I knew. Those two things don't always match so perfectly. It goes to show what a genuine bloke John Waters was.

As always with funerals, there was a comical dimension. Look, landmates, I'm not a catholic - I ain't anything as far as religion is concerned - and I was hoping to slip into the back of the church where I wouldn't intrude or stick out like the proverbial swollen thumb. But, when I got there, the church was packed out. A tribute to people's regard for Johnie. I heard the usher say to a woman in front of me, 'Are you going up stairs?' She said, 'No.' and went off into the church. So I said to the fella, 'I'd like to go up stairs, please.' He looked puzzled, 'You want to go upstairs?' he asked. 'Yes,' I said. He asked me again, 'Upstairs?' I said, 'Yes, please.' He said, 'Do you know it's for the choir?' I'm glad he questioned it. Anyway, I ended up on the right-hand side of the church right up the front. I felt mega uncomfortable.

My social plight was compounded when I realised that the usher, had neglected to give me an order of service booklet. This was, no doubt, because it had thrown him so completely off key having a complete stranger - and a werewolf, too boot - asking if he could join the choir.

The opening hymn was announced which everybody read from their booklets. But, hey, The priest had also given the number of the hymn in the hymn book, a copy of which I had picked up on the way in. Fine, except the words in the hymn book were different to the lyrics in the booklet.

The mass was of a high kind with three men in robes and a robed altar boy ringing a bell. As the service went along, I was able to lose myself in the ritual and the smell of the incense and the intoning of the priests and the singing of the choir and congregation and their calls and answers and the poems of the scriptures. A real sense of peace came over the place.

There were tears, of course. The death of a loved one is painful. Like I say in 'Talking Revolution', nobody really ever wants to die. Even those couples who buy one single and one return ticket to Switzerland would prefer to the ill partner to be well again and get two return tickets instead. If you are distressed enough, and there is no turning back the clock, death can appear as sweet release, that's all.

Mary's moving tribute to her dad made me very glad I went. There is a great comfort in religion for believers.

Emily came round today to put some cello on two new pieces of mine. Have I mentioned this new work I am doing? I really must start reading my own blog. Ian Banks of Atoll-UK, on behalf of Spaces, has commissioned 6 artists, of which I am one, to respond to Cheshire's Weaver Valley and Winsford Waterfront regeneration.

Ian is a top geezer to work with. He is helpful in the utmost without ever trying to get you to conform to an agenda of his own. So many of these commissioners (and, unfortunately, you don't know who you are) try to turn you into themselves-as-artist. Not so, with Ian. Consequently, he gets a better result from everybody.

My way into the Weaver project was through an article I read that explained Cheshire's salt deposit is the remains of a triassic sea. In other words, 250 million years ago, Cheshire was ocean. That's fascinating to me - the Cheshire salt is the cinders of a burnt up sea. I did a couple of field trips, talked to people and did a load of rooting about in museums and libraries and, under the title of 'Songs of the Triassic Sea', I have written 4 lyric poems, each set in a different epoch of the Weaver Valley and Winsford Waterfront:

i) The Ballad of Old Salt (phantasy of pre-history and the spirit of the sea)
ii) Ram Your Spike (a worksong/shanty of open pan salt making)
iii) In Winsford Town (a contemporry pastoral)
iv) Over and Under (a prophesy foretelling the rebirth of Old Salt)

The first is a dramatic monologue which I am still working on. The other three pieces are finished so far as the text is concerned but I have some musicical settings, and that's what me and Emily were putting together. I am hoping to road test ii) and iii) individually at the Coachmakers before I schedule a special evening performance for the complete work.

Phil Johnson dropped in today, too. We ended up playing some English dance tunes: me guitar, Lynda tambourine, Phil mandolin, Emily cello: Jenny's Reel, Tiger Smith's Jig, Speed the Plough . . . The rafters was ringing, doods. What a dandy way to spend an afternoon. Lynda baked some currant scones and brewed up lashing of tea. And that's what I'm gonna do any minute now - have some more of the ol' fruit of the Beko oven courtesy of the Tambourine Lady. Just in case you are getting the wrong idea about my domestic life, please note that I cooked tea tonight.

I'll post the Songs of the Triassic Sea lyrics as soon as they have been officially presented to Ian. It wudna bey rayt, as they say in Stoke, to do it beforehand.

I've started reading David Copperfield again. It'll go nicely with the cup of Rosie Lee.

Oh, yeah, before I shoot off, Tatton Park, RHS show: Cheshire Life have done a little feature on it. My mugshot made the online version, but they must have thought it a vision too far for their more-sensitive hard-copy readers cuz it was cut from that. Here's the link:!--197897

Oh, yeah an' all, Shooting Stars is back on the telly. See? Life ain't all bad, are it?

See you later, folks.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Life At Both Ends

Talking of Bobby Bonehead aka Curly the Caveman and a few other akas, as I was last time: Trawling through my book shelves looking for Ted Hughes 'Pike' poem (an exemplary text for a lecture on the 'eagle eye of the poet' {Auden???} that I was sketching out), I chanced upon a 1980 diary which I'd kept because Amy was born that year. I leafed through it for reasons of nostalgia and the sort of curious enquiry time generates and came across this entry:

January 10, Thursday
Bob Coppard for bodhran lesson - 8.30

8.30 being the time I arranged for the callow youth to turn up, not what he paid me cuz I didn't charge him anything. I feel that I have played a large part in his becoming a children's entertainer. Sorry kids. Did I tell you that Rob and I were working in effluent treatment at the time? Tis true. You'll get nothing but the truth here, ain't that a fact?

Back to the more-recent past. I had my meeting with the Dean of MMU Cheshire - one Mr. Dennis Dunn - re the continuation of my associate lectureship there. We got on well from the outset in a ducking an' dodging sort of way (Asked had I come to berate him or to sort things out? I said, 'Well, yes'). In absolute fairness to the good Dean, he expressed surprise and dissatisfaction at HR only permitting my employment to be continued until Feb 2010 and said he would address the matter that very afternoon and get it sorted. He was as good as his word and I now await a contract for the whole of the 2009/2010 academic year. Our meeting settled down quickly and we discovered that we had a few views in common. More on this when I have signed the contract.

Some very sad news: Dear old Johnie Waters has passed away. John was a terrific bloke. A kind and gentle man and an absolutely fabulous flute player. He was from Sligo and a founder member of the Green Velvet Ceili band along with Jack Baynes, Jim Sweeney, Frank Preston and the rest of the boys who had moved on or who I knew less well. I don't know exactly when the Green Velvet was formed. I remember seeing them playing for a dance at the Holy Trinity Church social centre in the middle 1960s. I had popped across from a friend's flat in the same road to buy some fags and stayed to listen for a while. They played 'Black Velvet Band' and then a couple of reels I didn't know the name of. Of course, I didn't realise at the time what a big influence they were to become on my life a decade later. Charlie Ferguson (later known as Chris Ferguson) from Bangor, NI, another wonderful flute player, introduced me to the boys.

I met Charlie at Jason Hill's folk club at the Sealion pub in Hanley. Under the influence of Robin Garside, a folk-singing friend of Lynda's (they went to the same art school where Lynda was studying painting under Arthur Berry - that's a funny expression, ain't it. What an image!). Robin lodged with us at our house in Mow Cop at one time. I had started to play the tin whistle. I thought I could play it OK and did a couple of gigs on it with Robin. Then I heard Charlie and realised I couldn't play it all. Hearing Charlie was like all your records coming to life. We became good mates, Charlie and I, and he taught me to play the tin whistle properly and to play the bodhran. Thing was, where the bloody hell could you get a bodhran from? We're talking donkeys ago here - pre the Chieftains and all that.

To be a fan of Irish trad in those days was rare and regarded as quirky. It wasn't even cool to like it in Ireland at that time. Coming home that same night as I had met Charlie, me and Lynda were heading for the bus stop with Jason and Becky. I was so utterly drunk. Becky stepped out in the road in Hope Street without looking properly and nearly got run down by a knobhead in a car that was going too fast anyway. The knobhead blasted his horn and, startled in my drunkeness, I reeled back out of the way against the window of Chatfield's music shop. There in the window was a bodhran.

The next day, I wondered if I had merely dreamt it. But it turned out that Denis Chatfield had been having a clear-out of his stock room. The drum had been ordered by a Keele student some years before and never collected. So, thanks to student apathy, I was fixed up. It cost me £3.50 and wasn't a very good drum. I later learned to make my own bodhrans and made dozens of them. Now and again, I used to see bands on TV using one of my drums. I don't have one of my own make anymore. Anybody out there got one I can buy back? I've given up making them now. It's too time-consuming. I've been working on a big tambourine now for about two years and it's still only an unfinished frame and when you understand that the frame pre existed as a garden sieve you'll see how feckless I have become with the making.

I bought the bodran on the Saturday morning, Charlie showed me how to go on with it on the following Tuesday evening and we played at Jason's Club on the Friday. We played everywhere after that. Everyone who heard Charlie play wanted to hear him play again. We played with Dick Gaughan, Nic Jones, Tony Hall, the Rev. Kenneth Loveless, that geezer from up Newcastle . . . oh gawd . . . Vin Garbutt, that's it, and loads of others I won't attempt to recall right now as it occurs to me that I need me breakfast and a long cup of tea. I do remember we played for the Keele Rapper side, too. Do they still have one? There is something special about the drum and tin whistle or flute playing together. The interplay of rhythm between the two is endlessly variable and exciting. The two instruments can be clearly separately heard as they interweave. Chance has a magical input too. Well, it does when the whistle player is as inventive as Charlie was (RIP). Charlie had a very NI style - lots of tongued notes like the 'tight' piping of NI pipers.

At different stages of time and on different stages, come to that, I played bodhran, tin whistle and piano with the Green Velvet Band. Terrific music. As good as it gets.

Johnie taught me so many tunes and encouraged my playing. He did the same for dozens of others. His son, Martin, is a flute player of awesome capability and the beautifullest tone in the world. His daughter, Mary, as a young girl was extraordinary on the tin whistle. She had a way of playing that was quite unique - great rhythm and individually creative ornamentation. What a family! I lost touch with John some years ago. John, Martin and Mary and Jack played at my 40th birthday at the Red Bull in Kidsgrove. Lynda arranged it all. After chucking out time, a bunch of us went back to our cottage by the canal (We'd bought it off Paul Atterbury who is one of the Antiques Roadshow presenters. He, or his Mrs, Avril, took all the light fittings with them and the ceramic fittings from the bathroom). A few people brought bottles of wine. Thing was, me and Lynda didn't drink wine at the time, it was something that only ultra sophisticates did, and we had no wine glasses. But, on the other hand, we did have plenty of egg cups. I have an enduring image of Avron White, an American drummer living in Stoke - a very cool dude in a white suit and shades - standing there in earnest conversation with Biker Bill, drinking merlot out of a Winnie the Pooh egg cup.

I will be saying goodbye to Johnie on Tuesday.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Is This Some Kind of Record?

Hey, two weeks on the trot! Is this some kind of record? Well, yeah, it's a blog . . . You really are a mentallist when you start interviewing yourself, aren't you? Politicans do it regularly.

Guess who came marching into my living room on Tuesday, after an absence of 15 years?

Lynda and I invited Emily and Rob (Emily always calls him Mr. Cochrane) round for lunch and a chat. Lynda cooked a beautiful veg curry with cauliflower cooked Japanese style - as shown to her by Hisami a world ago. We ate in the garden, it being a glorious sunny day. I say 'ate', 'scoffed' is probably the more-accurate verb here. We came back indoors, after scoffing a few of Lynda's homemade scones with strawberry jam, to play some music. I say 'scoffing', but 'eating' is probably the more-accurate word here, as we were all slowing down a bit after the curry.

Emily plays the cello. Lynda practically swoons when ever she hears the cello played well and was looking forward to some Elgar but, as soon as Emily got her cello out, I got my accoustic guitar out. I had been waiting for this opportunity. I played Emily an English reel which she learned in the blink of an eye. We started to run through it together. By the time we had gone a couple of times round the tune Em was playing seconds as well as the melody, being the terrific muso she is. It was sounding soooooo good. Emily's musical background is ideal for the onbeat cool of English dance music. I decide to switch on the ol' recorder to let her have a listen to how good she is. We were just hitting in to the second A part, when in he walks:

Rob the Bones. I say, Rob the bloody Bones.

In 1985, Geoff Walton, Rob Coppard, Adam Fenn and me, were recruited to play at, and promote in the lead up to, the 1986 Etruria Garden Festival. We were separated from the other musos and thrown together by Baz (RIP) because we all played folk stuff. As it was, Rob had become a minor celebrity (which reminds me that, a couple of years before that, Arthur Scargill had figured in the musical life of my family. But, of course, he was a miner celebrity, not the same thing at all).

Rob the Bones' celebrity was due to his appearances on the Ester Rantzen show, 'That's Life', as a bones player. There was a competition, as far as I can recall, to find out who was the best bones player in England. I don't remember now why it was deemed so important to know that. Anyhow, I don't think Rob actually won it, but he did capture the interest of a lot of people in along the way. He is terrifically good at bones playing - two-handed and everything. The role of Geoff, Adam and me was to play music to showcase Rob. That is why after we had to briefly consider Geoff's 'Bodran Bodran' and 'The Friendly Pebbles' I hastily came up with the name: BONESHAKER.

We turned out to be the only musicians hired by the Festival who were more interested in making music than getting pissed, smoking dope, and aimlessly jaming over rock riffs for hours. I am not saying we were not guilty of any of that. I am just saying organised music was our priority. Consequently, when it came to crunch time, Boneshaker was the only band that had got an act together. It followed that, initially, at least, we got all the gigs - all the live promotions, all the radio gigs and all the TV. We were literally on one or the other at least once a day for weeks. We did the lot. Local radio local to us and in far-off towns. We did Woman's Hour on Radio 4; Folk On 2; that worldwide programme; early morning TV programmes; daytime TV. Our favourite was Saturday Superstore with Keith Chegwin. I loved doing that cuz not only did i like the programme, I got some goody bags to take home to Amy who was 6 at the time. We gigged with a whole motley crew at the Etruria Fest: Bob Holness; Grot Bags; The Yetties; etc., etc. And laugh? I laughed my bloody head off. We played at the front gate; in the African Village, in the Japanese Garden, on the train - everywhere - And, oh, yeah, we featured in a channel 4 documentary called, 'Stoke in Bloom'. The whole thing was a blast.

So in walks Rob the Bones. The music stopped. It was helloes all round and me and Rob began doing that, 'Do you remember when . . .?' thing that ain't very nice for other people who weren't there cuz as the memories come flooding back, you start talking in short hand to each other. So sorry to Emily and Rob and Lynda but, come on, 15 years . . .

We talked about the time when we had both started working at the same factory: Simon-Hartley in Etruria. Rob was a young apprentice, I was a bit older and was brought in from Manpower to sort out the design and implementation of some financial incentive schemes (don't get me started on the belief of most management that the working class are only motivated by money and need to be supervised at every momentor else they will swing the lead. Whereas the middle classes are both naturally motivated and thoroughly trust worthy . . . )

Me and Rob got talking at Simon-Hartley and found we had some musical interests in common. Rob told me his ambition was to learn the ol' Irish drum - the bodhran. He had mentioned it to the right geezer, of course. I showed him how to pit his patters on the skin of a murdered goat that had been stretched across an old wooden riddle. For free, mind you.


does he mention this on his web pages? Does he mention Boneshaker and his initiation into the world of gigging and getting paid for it?


He mentions Greg and the Boatband, as well he should, but of his old Boneshaker buddies?


I'll give you his link and you can check it out for yourselves. I have emailed him about it. It'll be mildly interesting to see how long he takes to put that right.

Here's the link:

He's into loads of entertainment stuff these days and has developed and expanded his skills as you will see. It was great to see Rob again. Thanks for taking the trouble to track me down, dude (Through this blog, as it happens). And Emily, we must pick up where we left off asap and can you owe Lynda some Elgar, please?

I had my meeting with the Dean of MMU Cheshire re their HR teams heinous ageist policies. I will tell you about it as soon as it is diplomatic to do so. Suffice to say, the situation, allegedly, is to be moved moved forward. Time will tell and so shall I.

This is great news: James Harker, a bright, hip, thoroughly nice, talented, MMU Writing student, having completed an extemely successful first year as an undergraduate, has been awarded the editorship of the student magazine, PULP. The post could not have gone to a more-worthy or more-capable person than James. Where have the students mags with real edge gone? It looks like, with James' appointment, at least one of them will be coming back. All the best, James. You will be missed at uni.

All the best, too, to you, who read this, and all the best, too, to you who do not read this. So long as you are compassionate, respectful-where-appropriate, human beings with good intentions, I wish for a long, pain-free life to you all. May each one of us be sustained by enlightenment.


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Is Anybody Out There?

It's so yonks since I got around to writing this, ain't it just? Last night, I played the Coachmakers in Hanley (what a great little boozer it is and they're gonna knock it down, the tow rags, just like they knock everything and everyone down that's any good) with ACW Fenn, mandolinist to the blissful, and he nagged me about failing to keep blogging. I am self-evidently NOT a natural born bloggist. Is it possible to be a 'natural born' at any such construct???

Writing in a blog about something that I have just done seems fairly irrelevant to me. I mean, why would I care? It done and gone. Even more, why would you care? The only justification would seem to me is if it was used as a creative vehicle in poetry or prose - which certainly could happen with a blog although I doubt that I am committed enough, or bloggist enough, to pull that one off. Come to think of it, I don't think I have read any blog that has pulled that one off. Come to think of it, I don't think I have read any blog.

It was my intention to keep a meticulous account of my days as Cheshire Poet Laureate. Coffee has that effect on me. It makes me think that you and I are different people altogether. I only drink tea now and my plans for myself are far more realistic. I will no longer keep up the pretence of writing a continual coherent narrative. I shall only post what ever falls out of the ends of my fingers on the qwerty. Actually, mine is not a qwerty any more, but a qwfty. It's turned Welshy through wfar and tfar.

What I shall attempt to do very soon is put things right with a few poets who contributed to the 'Homage to Cheshire' I allegedly edited. Anne Sherman of the Arts Service steadfastly refused to allow me to see the page proofs of the CCC publication (and more of this later in connection with my collection 'Somewhere in the Night' which I disown as being unrepresentative of my work). Consequently, there was no proper proof reading or final editing carried out. Naturally, errors got though - which is exactly what showing page proofs to authors and editors is designed to prevent. Some of the errors originated with me, some with the printer or whoever(?). They could have all been put right before publication had A.S. observed the usual courtesies and procedures. I apologise to the offended authors and hope to publish their poems in corrected form on this screen any day soon.

There is a whole big ageist thing going on with MMU Cheshire and me, too. Grey is the new black, don't you know? I will give you the low down on all of that. I have booked an appointment with the Dean on Tuesday morning, to get stuff said to me, face to face, instead of having rumours and facts whispered to me in corridors and encoded in doublespeak and liptrick in emails. I am happy to tell you straight away that my students, unasked by me, have been wonderful in their support of my cause. They really have been fantastic about it. And, so too, have been members of the Writing staff. It is in gratitude and respect for them as well as for myself that I determined to see the thing through and hopefully bring some integrity and commonsense back into play in the thinking of the MMU Cheshire policy-makers.

But, right now, I have remembered I have a few cans in the kitchen. NOT in the frig, you understand? Why the hell would anybody want to drink icecold ale? All right, in Oz you would, but you'd want to drink it inside the frig there, wouldn't you?

This blog, you and I, have officially lost out to three or four speckled hens. Adios.

Sunday, 11 January 2009


It's been a long, long time (again) since I updated this B-log, ain't it? I always mean to keep up to speed but it seems to need an outside influence to actually get me round to doing it. This time it's a posted comment from 'Anonymous' reminding me of Heymaker and those Bridge Street Art Centre days - well nights, then - and asking for the words of Weird Sisters.

One time, we had gone on stage at 10pm for our second set. We hit the groove, the songs were flowing like booze, the solos were drawing circles in the sky. We were just rolling out the ending to Weird Sisters when Cyril, the top geezer who ran the place, leapt up on stage waving his arms and shouting: 'That's it. Finish! Finish! Enough!' I said: 'Oh, come on, man, one more?' His eyes popped out of his hairy old face, and he screamed: 'It's two o'clock in the fucking morning!' No stamina, some people.

Good to hear from you Anonymous.


When the full moon shines
On the village green
And ancient chimes
Strike 13 . . .

Weird sisters
Weird sisters

Did voodoo do
This trickery?
Magic weed?

Weird sisters
Weird sisters
Weird sisters
Put this spell on me

Round and round
The cauldron go
In the poisoned
Entrails throw

Mandrake root

Weird sisters
Weird sisters
Weird sisters of the night
Put this spell on me.

© W. Terry Fox

Travel safe.