Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Tortoise and the Twizzlebird

You know that old story about the tortoise who was mugged by a gang of slugs? When the police interviewed him afterwards they asked him to describe exactly what had happened. The tortoise said, ‘It’s difficult to say, really. It all happened so fast.’ Well, that’s me and this blog. It’s difficult to say what’s been going on in my life as it all happens so fast.

I told the above joke when StringFing went to Neston Library up on the Wirral near Parkgate. Some jokes come to my mind and I hear myself telling them over and over. It must be cuz I'm a dad - comes with the territory. I love the people on the Wirral and I'm particularly fond of Neston Library and its staff.

Parkgate is the scene of what must be the biggest heist in history: One dark night, some Welsh geezers tip-toed over to Parkgate and nicked the River Dee. If you don't believe me go to Parkgate and have a look.


Way back to my last entry, the world had just lost my mate Jackie Turpin. I promised to post what I said at his funeral:


He was not a boastful man, John Matthew Turpin Senior, Battling Jack. When he spoke to me of his professional boxing career it was to tell me how good his brothers Dick and Randolph were, or to tell me something to make me laugh.

When he told me about his service with the Royal Navy in the Second World War, on a destroyer ploughing through the Arctic seas guarding the Russian convoys, it was to tell me how brave he had NOT felt in the face of the horror of it all . . . and to tell me something to make me laugh.

When he spoke of his post-professional boxing career it was to tell me how good his son John Matthew Turpin Junior was; how good the amateurs were he selflessly trained; how proud he was of his wife, Bet, his daughter Georgina, his granddaughter, Lydia, and, of course, to tell me a tale that would make me laugh.

I met Jack in 1998 through my involvement with Randolph Turpin’s Memorial statue as a friend of the sculptor Carl Payne. For me it was as if someone had opened a door and let in a small whirlwind. Me and Jack got on instantly.

The influences that shaped him go way beyond his mother Beatrice’s stately Leamington Spa and Warwick back streets, far across the sea to that land of his father Lionel – three generations out of slavery – in the then ‘British Guyana’ in South America and from there to the golden sands and talking drums of West Africa. I was so affected by Jackie Turpin I wrote a book about him.

He was a better boxer than he ever said he was. He was a better trainer than he ever gave himself credit for. He was a better brother, husband, father and grandfather than he ever measured himself to be. He was a better friend than he ever imagined he was.

He once told me I was like another brother to him - a feeling that was reciprocated for Jack became like the older brother I never had.

John Matthew Turpin Senior, the little featherweight with the heart of a giant, Battling Jack, was, is, and will always be a hero to me.

As I explain in my last blog the MMUC HR TWATS have flatly refused to employ me as a lecturer anymore (lets hope they think me also too old to be sued). I’m glad to be free of the yoke in some ways – it allows me to refer to them as TWATS for a start - but I have to say, though, it’s coming up for the new academic year and I’m feeling the pull of the campus. There is something utterly brilliant about teaching poetry, creative writing, writing for performance and journalism that is out there on its own.

StringFing is my big fing now, with Adam and Emily. I call our music Folk Beat. It’s a synthesis of all the music I have ever put my mind and fingers to from the 60s beat scene through skiffle, blues, N.O. Jazz and traditional Anglo-Celtic music. It’s folky electro-acoustic stuff with an edge. It ain’t no faux-pure bollix, it struts its influences.

We have started a new residency at The New Inn, Derby Street, Hanley, Stoke on Trent on the 3rd Thursday of the month. It’s a big, warm, comfortable pub with well-kept beer and friendly hosts. We had a great time there last week. We’re there next on Thursday 21st October. Come along and join the merry throng. People will only talk about you if you don’t.


Our Amy and her partner Dave have launched their own web design business:


They have created a brill website for my Woodlanders Country Dance Band. Have a gander at it:


They are busy helping companies in the North West make the best use of the internet with their Twizzlebird Creative hot designs.


I had a nice surprise tonight in the form of a phone call from my old mucker Henri Harrison. I love Henri. We go back a long, long way. The Cops n Robbers was Henri’s band and we did a lot of well-documented cool stuff with that outfit, but we played music together before that – New Orleans jazz.

Henri was gigging in Watford the other evening and bumped into an erstwhile great mate of Lynda’s and mine: the inimitable Johnny Johnson. Johnny is a great singer. When Lynda and Johnny and me were knocking around together Johnny played 12-string guitar and sang solo. He can switch from a soul number to a music hall song in a flick of his plectrum and do them brilliantly.

Johnny’s got a six-piece band now, Henri says. Johnny always had a big repertoire of jokes, guaranteed to make you laugh. Oh yeah, I remember his paintings too – wonderful! Of all the geezers I know, Johnny is the more comfortable in his skin. I wrote a song about him once called, ‘Johnny Walks Easy Down the Street’. I’ve no idea now how the song went anymore. I just recall writing it and what the title was. I wonder if he remembers it?


National Poetry Day is on Thursday 7th October. I’m doing a gig at Nantwich Library starting at 2pm. The theme this year is ‘Home’ so I’ll be doing some of my Mow Cop poetry and some poems about my nearest and dearest. It would be triffik to see you there. Please come along if you possibly can.

Hey that wasn’t bad for me: only a matter of weeks since my last posting rather than the more-usual months. I’m getting almost obsessive with it, aren’t I?

Yours truthfully truly,


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