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.