Thursday, 30 July 2009

Inspiration you say...

Weaver of Grass has had lots of bloggers writing about their inspirations this week. I've not had time (nor been in the right mood) to write much about this subject just now but I have enjoyed lots of the posts she has...inspired. One reason I didn't fancy the task this week I think is that coming up with the 25 influencing writers post back here probably covered quite a lot of inspiration territory for me. Also I'm not sure I even work on inspiration...that sounds weird maybe...but inspiration is one of those words I just don't use for myself very often (though I'm sure I use 'uninspired' quite a deep analysis please...).

If I do get inspired by anything or anyone I suppose it might just be people who can really entertain others (and I mean entertain in a very full sense). I find it really impressive when someone (or a group of someones) can entertain others (small crowds or huge) whilst still creating something of real value (music/TV/comedy/theatre...whatever) . I know some people see 'entertainment' as a dirty word, a kind of opposite to real art, but I really don't feel that way and to me a properly talented entertainer (say, a singer or comedian) is every bit as important as a 'classic' painter or poet (we need all these things after all to make our lives full – life is such a big project). I'm not saying the entertainers are more important...just equally so...and some really clever people can even be both.

So if anyone has inspired me in my life to date...oh probably wouldn't be an artist like Picasso, or a beloved family member, or an admirable, it could easily be someone like these two:

Morecambe and Wise - they're very silly but total masters when it comes to comic timing and much more besides. I spent a little while looking for their best clip on youtube but I liked bits of all of them so have stuck an assortment below. They're all a bit 1970s (and I posted a few other comedy clips from this era back here) but what can you was a great time for TV. Well, some TV...

and one of the really famous ones...

Now I'm in the mood for '70s humour I might have to post some 'Fawlty Towers' next time or something. I write about music a lot (on here and elsewhere) but I sometimes wonder what I'd pick in the unlikely event that some cartoon baddie made me choose between music or comedy. It would be a long, slow decision process, that's for sure...


Tuesday, 28 July 2009

But this is what my heart sounds like

French, pah! Spanish, as I may have said before, was the language I loved the most (well, as a teenager anyway...and boy, can teenagers love!). Here is Ana Laan singing one of her lovely songs in Spanish:

Ana is an old friend (albeit one that I seem to have lost touch with...again). Still she's a very good singer and songwriter... even if she doesn't reply to emails. Here she is singing in English on a live recording (the introduction is in Spanish but it sounds lovely even if you don't understand her):

The first song is from her first album 'Orégano' and the second is from her second 'Chocolate and Roses'.

Nothing else to add today. ..gearing up for the visitor season...just enjoy.


Saturday, 25 July 2009

French is everywhere

I guess being in France for the best part of a fortnight this month has had its effect on us as a mini-family. Mark keeps wanting to eat his tea outside (but not managing it due to inclement weather), our Girl now likes to greet acquaintances with the double-cheek kiss business and me...well, I keep hearing French things in my head, making French noises ('bouf', 'bah...', 'urm...') and just generally thinking about things non-British a lot of the time.

For a start I heard a new version of the Fairport Convention song 'Si tu dois partir' on the radio this week (by young English folk singer Ruth Notman) and then found myself singing it all week long. You can hear a snippet of the Notman version on her myspace page (it's very good) and the Fairport version is here. Indeed Bob Dylan singing the original song in English is even closer - right here in fact:

Also I'm still reading 'A Place of Greater Safety' by Hilary Mantel (published in 1993 it is a fictionalised history of the French revolution). I think I'll be reading it all summer - it is 872 pages long and I don't want to rush it as it's SO sparklingly good. At the moment I'm nearly halfway through, the royals still have their heads and Guillotin is so far just an 'expert on public health'. It's fantastique, mes amis, really fantastique.

Then yesterday I watched (with mother) a French film 'Il ya longtemps que je t'aime/I've loved you so long' (Philippe Claudel 2008). It features the very smouldering Kristin Scott-Thomas and it's quite French in being slow and moody and really very sad. I liked it. It is sad without being drawn-out-to-the-point-of-agony sad plus after watching 'Marley and me' (one of Our Girl's current favourites) the night before I was ready for...well...any film other than 'Marley and me' really. (We got an armful of dvds from the rental shop this week and Girl is still dog-mad...right now she is watching a film about a kids soccer team with a dog in it).

But there is still more to life than France (and dogs...and dogs in France). This week I also caught up on old newspapers and read a lovely interview in the Independent with poet Carol Ann Duffy (who is what exactly...a bit Scottish, a bit English, presumably fairly Irish too, non?). The interview is here and was written by our old friend Christina Patterson. It contains some really special moments (on Ted Hughes, on families, on writing) and it also features Duffy describing how her Dad told her to 'get a proper job' instead of becoming a poet. And so, Duffy explains in the article, “part of my vocational sense about poetry is to do with asserting the space that poetry can have. It's as important as anything else...because it's the music of being human.” Now I'm not sure I completely agree with her (isn't music the music of being human?) but it sounds great, doesn't it? And such is poetry...n'est-ce pas?

Promise to stop sticking bits of French in all over the place soon too. It's probably really annoying.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Back to work

What do you know...a new poem. Brand new. Hot off press. And I'm starting to write poems on-screen (instead of on paper) which is not something I ever really wanted to do. Still, when it comes, it comes. No point getting all worked up about it.

Summer forever

Everything changes in summer, it seems
You see people you never see
The rest of the time
You hear all their stories for the year gone by
And some of them sound so strangely familiar

You get hot and bothered and sticky (but like it)
You live for ice-cream and cold, bitter drinks
Thick rain buckets down
But no-one proffers the winter mantra
'Quick, dry your hair, you'll get a cold if you don't'

Things are just different - looking, sounding
Children grow right in front of your eyes
Days last like seasons
Games run and run...and run and run
People seem better, brighter, warmer

RF 2009

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Photos explained

Well, here we are back home. It feels a bit weird too because it's ages since we went away for two whole weeks...and it's ages since I left these islands too (UK holidays for the last 5 years or so).

Thanks to everyone who came with us via the photos we posted from the sea, Belgium and France. It wasn't my plan to post every day (in fact my plan was to do NO BLOGGING AT ALL!) but Mark took that photo underneath the Forth Road Bridge on the first day and I think I said something like 'let's post it from your clever phone and see if anyone can guess what it is' and then it all just carried on from there. I'm still laughing at Dick Jones' suggestion for the Day 1 photo that we were falling down a lift shaft (they have a ride like that at Disneyland...we didn't go on it though...). Jones is funny, very funny!

Anyway, most of the photos were identified but one or two were not so here are the final details for all of them for those who are interested. There are links back to the photo posts on the Day headings.

Day 1 – this was taken on the ferry out of Rosyth (just north of Edinburgh) and the photo is of the Forth Road Bridge (taken from underneath...I've been on it many times but never under it before). This Rosyth/Zeebrugge route is a new service (with Norfolkline) and there were lots of people complaining that the company before (Superfast) did it better. The cabins were great, the staff (Liverpudlians and Philippinos, largely) were lovely but it was a little cramped in terms of other space with not much viewing deck and stuff like that (and it's a long trip!). The breakfast was very expensive too...possibly the most expensive I've ever encountered (put it this way we took supplies for the home trip). They could do with rethinking how they serve the evening meals too...much unnecessary queuing. Anyway, onto...

Day 2 – this was taken arriving at Zeebrugge port in Belgium. We then went into nearby Bruges (Brugge) and stayed two nights there. It's a very beautiful city and smaller and more manageable for tourists than some of the better-known European city destinations. We wandered about a lot, took a horse and carriage ride, enjoyed sunshine, ate some chocolate...

Day 3 – like many places in Belgium, Bruges is full of chocolate shops. We had to post a photo of at least one.

Day 4 – after Bruges we headed down to Disneyland Resort Paris (as it's now known...changed its name to get away from bad Eurodisney reports, so I believe). This part of the holiday was a surprise for our Girl (and we didn't tell her till we pulled up outside). This photo was of the Disneyland Hotel at the entrance to the main amusement park (we stayed in one of the hotels about 5 minutes walk from the park...plenty close enough!). I was not looking forward to the Disney part of the holiday (crowds, commercialism, queues...) but we had taken lots of advice on how to get the most out of it in a short time and it all worked out and I even enjoyed it (and of course our Girl LOVED it). We avoided queues pretty much and we seemed to manage to see and do all the best bits for a girl of 9 who likes more fantasy and fun than excitement and screaming. I'm not sure I could manage a fortnight like some people do but a couple of days was surprisingly bearable.

Day 5 – this photo was the carousel in the Fantasyland part of Disneyland Park. We spent all morning in (and I mean all morning...we went into the park at 8am!). In the afternoon we made it into the new bit (Walt Disney Studios) and then we had our evening meal in the Disney Village (another bit...) surrounded by people in huge character suits (hot work, I'm sure). I was fascinated by all the different jobs at the resort and the armies of people from all over the world who work there. I wanted to interview them all ('who are you? Where are you from? How did you end up here?'). I still might do that...

Day 6 – this photo was the... unusual dog fountain at the château at Fontainebleau, south of Paris (I have relatives who live nearby). Dogs were quite a theme of the holiday (our Girl being dog-mad and stopping to talk to every dog/dog-owner that we met...whether she could speak the same language or not...).

Day 7 – we only had a day trip to Paris this holiday (but mean to go back to visit more thoroughly when our Girl is a bit older...I was last there some 20 years ago). We took this photo of the Canot de l'Empereur (built for Napoleon) at the Musée de la Marine at the Place du Trocadéro (we were there because one of my younger male relatives was hunting for a particular item in the giftshop!). Mostly we saw the Eiffel Tower (our Girl's one request) and the huge queues to go up said tower, then had lunch, walked by the river, took a bus, soaked in some atmosphere. I had taken Hilary Mantel's 'A Place of Greater Safety' as my holiday reading (it's been sitting on a shelf waiting to be read for ages) so it was great to walk on some of the streets I was reading about.

Day 8 – this is one of the ones that nobody guessed or knew. I suppose Dave King was the one I thought might get it (writing as he does about visual art so much) but maybe he's been on holiday too. We were in Barbizon (back near Fontainebleau) and this was at the The Ganne-Musée Inn of the Barbizon School (L’Auberge Ganne-Musée de l’Ecole de Barbizon). You can read about the Barbizon painters here and the little museum is interesting because impoverished artists painted walls and furniture for the innkeeper when they couldn't pay their bills. The photo we posted featured one of the wall paintings (an anonymous one) in the upstairs part of the museum. I can see why several of you went off down a van Gogh road but it wasn't anything to do with him. There is also a Millet museum in Barbizon (his studio/house) and we went there and walked in the Barbizon forest too.

Day 9 – next we moved south to other relatives who live in the Loire valley, just west of Charité sur Loire, and on the first day we took a walk with my cousin and she showed us the five-hundred year old oak tree that we photographed for this post (obviously this is the royal 'we''s Mark's phone...). I couldn't resist this old giant and its marker for one of the pilgrim routes (Chemin de Vezelay) - partly because of regular visitor Solitary Walker (I wouldn't even have heard of the pilgrim ways if it wasn't for him). Mr Walker did recognise the marker but had not been down this chemin so didn't know the tree. I suppose it was a long shot...

Day 10 – We went into Charité and decided to take a photo of the town while we were there to help with the Day 9 photo (it worked...Solitary Walker got both in the end...wouldn't have been fun if it was easy, would it?). In the evening we went to a local party along the river to watch fireworks for the French national day (14th July – but fireworks go on the night before). Very beautiful...and great fireworks.

Day 11 – no-one got this one either. It was this place and a fantastic project. Mark loved all the technical stuff ('oh look, a medieval spirit level'...), our Girl loved the animals ('oh, look, goats and pigs and horses!') and I just enjoyed wandering about looking at everything and everyone. It was sunny and friendly and altogether charmant.

Day 12 – Titus had mentioned the Tour de France earlier in the week and then we very nearly did get caught up in it on our way to lunch with relatives on day 12 (hence the photo). We did think we might take a look at the great race as it was passing so close by but you know these French went on for hours! Our Girl couldn't believe how many courses we ate...time for a wee diet now I think...or maybe a big diet...

Day 13 – back on the road north we stayed overnight just outside Épernay in the Champagne region and took this photo on our way back to the car after another long meal. We weren't there very long (just to eat and sleep really) but we enjoyed the brief stop. In our hotel everything was champagne related...the key fobs were shaped like champagne corks (it's not just Disneyland that's tacky evidently...). Titus got this one. Clever dog.

Day 14 – finally we were back on the ferry at Zeebrugge and we took this photo an hour or so out to sea. The crossing was fairly rough (it had been smooth as smooth on the way out) but I like being on the water so I didn't mind (though it was a bit like sleeping in a tumble drier at nighttime). Some others on the boat looked fairly green and lots of people went into breakfast but came running straight out again. I don't think it was just the cost of breakfast that had that effect either...

And now home. Home sweet home. And congratulations to all those who spotted sights or guessed something right (I think Solitary Walker got the most points but Dominic Rivron, Titus, Swiss, Barbara Smith and Green Ink all got on the scoreboard too). Thanks also to those of you whose funny answers made me laugh and to relatives of mine (Ruth, Raymond, Carol...) who helped with ideas (and of course put us up too!). It was really good to get back on the road again.


Friday, 17 July 2009

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Day 8 - ?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Monday, 6 July 2009

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The last six months...

We'll be away for a couple of weeks – proper abroad and everything – and we might manage some 'photos from the holiday road' posts but I don't think I'll be writing anything new on here till I get back. Until then here are a few links to selected posts from the first half of this year. It's called recycling...

There's a highflying post from the 1st January this year – here.

We had a week of of short poems in February – starting here.

Remember my Larkin poem at the end of a February post about England and being English? It's here.

There's some writing about poet Adrian Mitchell from March – here.

And a poem about senses in March – here.

The 'Alain de Botton book about work' post was fairly lively in April – it's here.

There's a review of John Baker's very good novel 'Winged with Death' from April – here.

The whole 'Revolutionary Road' (the book!) post from June is here. Worth it for some of the comments alone.

And if you missed it recently – the journalist Christina Patterson was interviewed in June (here) and my qarrtsiluni poetic debut is here.

That's it for now. Wish you were here and all that (but where will I be...maybe you'll have to try and guess from the photos that fly in...).