Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Jackie's Jacksy

I’ve got to tell you this: me and Lynda have got a friend called Jackie. That’s not it. There’s more: Jackie is a little unusual. Some might call her ‘eccentric’, ‘weird’, ‘off the wall’, ‘barmy’, ‘loopy’, ‘howling at the moon’, etc. Not me though, I hasten to add. I wouldn’t be so bloody rude.

Jackie is texting-mad and writes multitudinous texts with inventive txtspk abbreviations, as senders of copious txts tnd 2 do. Jackie is also obsessed with her health and insists upon keeping her friends up to date with the latest manifestations of her extensive and exponentially-increasing range of afflictions with detailed and highly descriptive lists of their symptoms - omg gr8 swt smlz of amonia bld in we hosp 2moz. The many recipients of her messages – and believe me, that example is a mild one - quickly learn to avoid reading them at mealtimes.

Most of us have put a bit of weight on over Christmas, haven’t we? I know I have. Nearly a stone, in fact, and all I did was slob around for three weeks eating ten platefuls a day more than a sty-full of Wessex Saddlebacks. As a result of my sustained gluttony, when lying on my back on the couch, I have the body profile of Mow Cop.

I have long been an admirer of John Betjeman’s verse. With the paunch I’ve got at the moment, stick a straw boater on my head and I could go out as a convincing tribute act. ‘Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, I can hear from the car-park the dance has begun . . .’

Back to Jackie: She put on some w8 ovr xms 2 and texted details as to where the extra poundage had distributed itself, including, w8 4 it: ‘2lb on my rs’. Two-pounds is an extraordinarily precise amount of gained weight. So precise in fact that it could only be arrived at by careful measurement.

Which begs the question: How the hell did she weigh her arse?!! And, no, I’m not asking her. I have neither the required courage nor strength to bear the consequent images.



Saturday, 23 January 2010

Of Teddy the Cat and Caryl the Professor

Anybody who knows my lovely wife Lynda will know that she loves animals dearly, especially cats. She used to breed cats at one time. No, you’re right, clearly she didn’t, they used to breed themselves, but she governed the genetic engineering side of things.

A sad occasion was visited upon us when we lost Teddy, a beautiful Sealpoint Persian tom (Did you know cat people refer to cat genders as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’. How surreal is that?). Poor Teddy was hit by a car as he was running back home across Congleton Road South by the Red Bull Pub.

Tom cats that are left ‘entire’ do have a tendency to wander further from home than neutered toms and Teddy was no exception. Even though we had a 5-acre field alongside our house for him to cruise about in, he preferred to go a-courting miles away.

As you might imagine, Lynda was deeply upset by Teddy’s demise. Later that day, she paid a routine visit to her mum in Goldenhill. As soon as her mother opened the door she noticed her daughter’s stricken face and tear-reddened eyes. ‘What on earth’s the matter, duck,’ she asked with great concern, holding out her arms.
‘Teddy’s been killed,’ Lynda told her. Her mother nearly fainted on the spot, but managed to stagger inside and collapse on the sofa.
‘How did it happen?’ she asked in a feeble voice.
Lynda was surprised by her mother’s reaction as her mother had never seemed all that fond of cats, but she went on to explain: ‘A car hit him as he was running across the road.’
‘Oh, no! Oh, no,’ her mother wailed.
‘I suppose it’s my fault,’ Lynda reflected after a while.
‘Your fault?!!’ asked her mother, absolutely aghast.
‘Yes,’ said Lynda, miserably. ‘I should have had his balls cut off.’

It was at this point that Lynda’s mother realised that Lynda must be talking about Teddy the cat and not Lynda’s marathon-running older brother Edward.


You remember that author, Caryl Phillips, I mentioned in my last blogging, the one who people keep telling me has ripped off chunks of my book Battling Jack for Part II of his book Foreigners published two years later (he is currently denying this and claiming that although Battling Jack was an ‘important and useful source’ which was regrettably omitted from the acknowledgements, anything more than this is co-incidental!!)? It turns out Mr Phillips is a professor at Yale University. Tut, tut, tut, professor.

I’ll keep you informed of any progress in my challenge of Prof. Caryl Phillips’ use of my work.

Are there any other authors out there, I wonder, who believe that Prof. Phillips has made similar appropriations of their work? If so, please let me know.

In the meantime have a keentime one and all.



Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Caryl Phillips Plagiarist?

There's this geezer called Caryl Phillips. According to the cover of a book of his that I have in front of me right now, he was born in the West Indies and brought up over here. Mr Phillips is a writer who enjoys great standing in the literary world - a Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship - that kind of thing. The fella is a fellow too, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

There is a picture of him. He's a good-looking dood, 40-ish, clean-shaven all over his face and head, well, apart from his eyebrows. The photo is a head and shoulders shot. Phillips is posed sideways-on to the camera, but with his head turned towards it. He is currently looking straight at me. Straight into my eyes. I have to say I see no guilt there. No haunted look. Nothing shifty. In fact, he does not look in the least bit like a charlatan or shameless word thief.

In 2007 Mr Phillips had yet another book published (he has many to his name), a book called Foreigners. It is divided into three parts. Part II of the book is called: Made in Wales and is about Randolph Turpin, famous fighter, brother of my dear buddy Jackie Turpin for whom I wrote the book Battling Jack: You Gotta Fight Back. Battling Jack was published in 2005, two years before Mr Phillips book was issued. Remember that and pass it on: two years before.

A while ago I was alerted to a posting on the internet written by a guy who had read the two books mentioned above and asking the question: 'Who has copied who?' One by one the telephone calls and the emails came: 'Hey Terry, man, some bloke's ripping you off' . . .' etc, etc.

My friend Kenny Jervis who has made an ace, as yet unpublished, documentary about Randolph phoned: 'Terry, I just bought a book called Foreigners by a bloke called Caryl Phillips. Have you had a hand in writing this? No? Kin ell! You'll be bloody furious! I'll send it to you when I've finished reading it.' He very kindly did. And, yes, I was and am 'bloody furious'. Mr Phillips, his researcher and his publisher have denied plagiarism - denied that Caryl Phillips has taken my work and passed it off as his own.

Why not see what you think? Find a library with Foreigners on its shelves. Sit in there with your purchased copy of Battling Jack. Have a look at, say, page 156 and 157 of Foreigners and compare it with page 266 of Battling Jack. Plagiarism? You decide. Let me know.

Mr Phillips' book has cast a shadow on my integrity as a person and as a writer. Hardly anybody bothers to look at the publishing dates of books and because yer Mr Phillips is such a literary giant, guess who people think is a copyist?

An irony is that I spent three years talking to Jack, travelling down to Warwick every week to record interviews with him, and researching and writing his story mainly because he and his brothers have been exploited for years by people making money out of their names and fame and I wanted to give something back.

I had not, prior to meeting Jackie, any intention of writing an extended work. I am a poet. I write in short bursts and then have a think about it. A single sentence can keep me occupied for weeks. I am very glad I had the opportunity to write a biography, of course, and in the light of the way Part II of Foreigners has been written and Mr Phillips walking so tall and admired through Bookland, and all that, I should have to consider myself a natural at the genre.

Jackie Turpin and I are co-authors. His stories, my writing. The writer and the fighter - the poet and the pugilist. I did the writing, Jack led the life. When I consider that a lot of Jackie's life consisted of exchanging gut-thumping blows with strangers in the boxing ring, I am happy with the arrangement.

I love Jack. He once told me we are brothers and that feeling is reciprocated. Kindred spirits. Same angst. Same sense of the absurd. All this stuff with Caryl Phillips is being kept away from Jack at the moment as he gets more upset by these things than I do (which is saying something). But his family and close ones are distressed by it, insulted by it. We want justice. I am going to take it all the way.

I had a phone call last night from an old co-conspiritor of mine from uni, Dave Woods. Back in the day we were both Writing students on the same course. These years on, Dave is not only a writer but an actor and radio presenter too. We used to have some bloody laughs. I remember him inventing a character called Muriel Muriel. It killed me for weeks that name. He lives up in Scotland now. Great to hear from you Dave.

Well, I got work to do.

Tra-ra. Go steady. Say hello to Muriel Muriel. Whoa, a last minute thought occurs: My Lynda suffers from insomnia, a legacy from a past illness. Insomnia is debilitating and distressing. It might help her out, perhaps, if Mr Phillips lets us know how he sleeps at night.


Thursday, 7 January 2010

On Ice With Strings

Jack Frost is having a right laugh, isn't he? Ain't he just. The cold-hearted, light-fingered old git has gorn and spangled everything. Above (and below) is a faux toe Lynda took of our summer house a couple of days ago. Since then, the jolly Mr Frost has danced all over the snowfall in his white-spangled pointy shoes and dressed it in diamonds. It now looks like summat Queen E would wear on her head at one of her balls (I use the word advisedly).

As you can see above (and above), StringFing made it to the Coachmakers last night and played to a much-depleted but absolute quality audience. We did Please Don't Drop Your Bombs On Me as promised, but the guy who requested it was another dood kept under house arrest house by the treacherous insurgents Ice and Snow. We'll be keeping the song in the set for a while so, liberated from his incarceration by the prophesied soon-upcoming army of sun beams, he will hear it next time round.
Oh, I have had to go back to sticking the W. in front of my name. There is simply too many references to the Canadian hopping hero to conveniently find the far far fewer references to the British shuffling non-heroic me. So it's the plus the W. for everything I do, but I won't be prefixing StringFing with my name as it's listed in the personnel in all publicity.
In the fotie of StringFing are two stalwart geezers who like real ale and real music too much to be kept away by a mere bit of weather. The camera flash has lit the room up more than it really was and the sustainable pine forest Jason has created on the joanna ain't usually there. Other than that, and a few dozen people, that's how it mostly is. Come along. Go on. You'll feel all the better for it duck.
May you become horizontal only when it's your own idea.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Chilling Out

All of Mow Hill is white and fluffy. What's been going on? A downfall of our downfall, that's what. I had to cancel our StringFing practice. The slippy slidy snowy drifts gave me no choice. Ain't it pretty, though? he asked from the haven of his big comfy chair by the radiator in his writing corner.

Actually, this particular radiator is not all that efficient and my toes are bloody freezing. So thanks natural forces for the pretty pretty snow, but it can go away now. I want the roads clear for our gig at the Coachmakers tomorrow night.

I have a poetry competition to judge and a load of marking to do for uni. The cancelled rehearsal has given me time to start doing it. Oh joy.

The photo is StringFing at the Coachmakers last year. Last year . . . Doesn't time whizz along? It only seems like a couple or four weeks ago.

Don't forget to feed the little bird doods. They're struggling.

Be safe,


Friday, 1 January 2010

Turning Over A New Year

Well here it is: New Years Day.

Ruth said to me, ‘Will you be saying two-thousand-and-ten or ‘twenty-ten’?’
‘Oh, two-thousand-and-ten. It’s a number, after all,’ I said
‘Yes, and ‘twenty-ten’ sounds so American,’ she said. I agreed. Then she said, ‘Ah, but we do say, the Battle of Hastings was in ‘ten-sixty-six’ don’t we?’ Call it what you will, this day milestones a new year for us islanders. Let make it a good one.

Under its new banner (Literally. I sewed and painted it myself), StringFing will be doing On A New Years Day at the Coachmakers, in Hanley, this Wednesday evening. It is 68 years since the explosion at Sneyd Colliery that took 57 lives. It was deemed unlucky to cut coal on a New Years Day. The miners broke their rule cuz in 1942, most of the world was involved in war for which coal was essential.

We will also be doing Please Don’t Drop Your Bombs on Me – a personal plea to the owner of any finger hovering over a big red button primed to trigger a nuclear bomb. Of course, I use it as a plea of restraint that includes anybody who has any bad intentions towards anybody else.

Seen from my window, Mow Hill is coated with a heavy frost right now. It is a misty morning. The sun has lit up all the east-facing windows. I can just pick out the castle in the deep greyness of what looks like a range of distant and brooding mountains.

Now I ain’t the Cheshire Poet Laureate any more I'll have a bit more time to get on with organising the completion and delivery of my Village Verse collection. I have set my sights on the middle of the year. We'll see. I've been trying to get it off the ground for yonks. If it ain't one thing holding it up it's another. Usually me not being able to raise the printing costs.

The night before last, just as me and Lynda were about to unscrew the top off a bottle, we had a call from Sheila to say Jim Eldon was over for a few days and asking about us and would we come over to the Swan, in Acton, for a session. It was great to see Jim and Lynette again. He was in his usual engaging form: his warm and gravelly voice over a scraped fiddle; quirky, individual, and right on target in. A proper ‘now’ version of the tradition.

Jim's music is part of a homely, home-spun, make-and-do tradition that I pay into. Nothing to do with academies and museums and dusty archives and intense and privileged education and training. It’s the result of a people after a long day’s work, taking their fiddles down from the hooks on the wall and grabbing a melody from the air and raising their voices to life. Wonderful. A lot of playing and singing was done, years ago, during the long, dark agricultural winters when the work was less. I was pressganged by a captain of industry when I was a kid and, consequently, spent most of my working life in factories. But it was an urban version of the same thing. As I think I have posted earlier, my first job was weeding kale fields (a line of kids working their way through an endless crop) but, the farm was doomed for redevelopment and the job was concreted over and factories grown where the pastures and crop fields were.

A wake of controversy always follows Jim. A lot of people can’t get a handle on his range of material: He’ll do a sea shanty followed by a song he wrote last week followed by Rockin’ All Over the World. Wake up you people! that’s exactly what the tradition is, does, and always will. EG, those Morris tunes that are often held up to be the epitome of the tradition – Jockey to the Fair, Constant Billy, etc – were all popular songs. Wake up, wake up! Or at least pipe down and listen.

Me and Croz recorded an album with Jim in . . . Croz, I google, thinks it was around 1979, but I am pretty sure it was a few years later. Yeah it was. I remember Amy, then a little girl, running out to give me a hello cuddle when I got back from one of the recording sessions. It must have been at least the middle of the 1980s. Jim and me were on fiddles and Croz was on the cello. I remember when we were trying to decide which version of Soldiers Joy we’d play. There was the more widely-known version, a cool, very different take on it that Jim had discovered and a version I had invented. We decided in the end to string them all together. Check it out if it’s still around. The album is Jim Eldon and the Sharpshooters.

At the Swan the session was in full swing by the time we arrived. Some of the musos I knew, some I didn’t: Jim fiddle and voice; Croz fiddle and melodeon; Sheila English concertina; Bryn (?), guitar and great songs; a guy from the Boat band on melodeon (sorry, dood, don’t know your name. Ace player, though); an older guy with a good voice; a younger singer and box player with a good voice; Lynette, tambourine and dancing feet.

Me and Lynda made our contribution on tambourine and guitar. Ee, it were gradely. Yeah, and we did the lot: trad tunes and songs, some not-so-old songs, and some with the ink still wet on their pages.

‘Trad’ singers have always done the songs of their forbears along with the songs they have written themselves and the new songs of others. Some of the early folksong collectors used to complain that the singers whose repertoires they were archiving kept wasting their precious recording time on non-traditional material. The tradition ain’t one solidified, frozen thing. It’s ever-changing and circling around. What's new today is traditional tomorrow. The tradition is what Jim does and what StringFing does.

I’m off the have my first breakfast of the decade. Look out for yourselves and for everybody else you can give a helping hand to.