Well, here I am... a bit late this week for the Poetry Bus. The thing is, Miss, we just spent a weekend in Edinburgh (daughter likes the Book Festival – Francesca Simon of 'Horrid Henry' fame this year...very enjoyable) and so I am worn to a FRAZZLE (and it certainly feels like the dog has eaten my homework, even though she hasn't, can't blame her really...). I'm just not used to big city life any more and at this time of year Edinburgh is very, very busy. We had a great time (shows, food, exhibition, shows, food, no sleep, shows, food, exhibition...and I will write about some of them later in the week maybe...) but by heck, it's good to be home sweet home too.
Anyway, this week the prompt from Karen is to write about school. I haven't had much time to think or work this week but here are few things – some old, one new.
First off here's something I wrote a couple of months ago. I went to a weird Quaker boarding school from the age of 11-16 (my Mum was socially ambitious and liked private schools - I am pretty much pointed in the opposite direction, hate the places and would close them all down if I could...). At this school (now closed...) I majored in drinking (Special Brew, cheap vodka) and general misbehaving. I know now I was reacting to the death in the family (and other issues perhaps) but at the time I just wanted to have fun and fun seemed to come in a can or a bottle. I was very, very bad – even sent home from school for a week at one point (to sober up mainly) but, unlike a lot of my friends, I wasn't expelled. There are several reasons for this I suppose - it was a small unacademic school and I was expected to get good exam results (and I did...just...I'd outgrown the heavy drinking by then). Also maybe they felt some sympathy for my widowed mother (single parent families were not so common back then and our story was pretty tragic). Lastly we were one of the very few families there with any real Quaker connections... I guess that was a factor too. Here's my first teenage school poem for today - I've sent it to a couple of magazines but no takers so far (shame, it's one of my favourites just now):
We were feral children We tore at our food, grabbed rough what we wanted
We felt lust soon enough Didn't wait for any leaflets to tell us what to do
We drank hard It was a hunger we had and the drink couldn't touch it
The next one is a new poem – written very quickly, on a train, over the weekend (so don't expect too much!). When I was 16 my Mum moved what was left of our family away from the North East of England to London. We weren't native North Easterners (Mum was born and brought up in Edinburgh, both her parents were from the South of England) and we'd never really fitted in in counties Durham or Cleveland (though I loved it there - it can be very rough and ready...in many senses...). By Middlesbrough standards (where we lived when I was a teenager) we were posh – my Mum spoke more like the Queen than Roy 'Chubby' Brown, we went to weird private schools, we were from elsewhere – but then, when we moved to London, I went to the Lycée Français in South Kensington for sixth form and suddenly I was quite at the other end of the social scale! At the Lycée many of the kids lived in huge West or North London homes, dressed in expensive branded clothing (that I'd never even heard of), had diplomats for parents (one or two came to school in chauffeur driven limos...). It wasn't an expensive school (as private schools go...it's subsidised by the French government) but there was lots of money in the air - the canteen food was damned good too. We, in contrast, lived in a series of small, ugly South London flats – once again out of step with the people I was around. It was a very exciting time though.
South Kensington is famous for its grand museums – perhaps the Natural History Museum most of all (see picture at top of post...it was just over the road from our school). Here's my très vite écrite Lycée poem. I've even put some exclamation marks in... I don't often do that.
In those days If you can you believe it I got up early (very early!) Climbed on a crammed commuter train And only fainted once
I coped With the rush hour With bursting Victoria With tube trains (smoking carriages!) It was 1985
I got off At South Kensington A grand destination A centre of history Patisseries galore
And I went To a school Where I was the pleb A clever pleb perhaps But badly dressed, cheap and wrong
And finally... a couple of years ago I wrote this about being a Mum at the school gates (once again I'm out of step you will notice...happens all the time...I don't even fit in with bloody poets...). This poem did have a tune (and was a really good song in fact) but I'm afraid it's lost its tune for now (long story...). Here are just the words:
School gates, no mates
What do you call a group of mums A cluster, a natter, a curse? Primary ones think their life's tough But being a mum can be worse
Here we are now stood at the gates Hovering round about three Some have a gang, some have a clan Others bob loose, lost at sea
Group ones are just really local Group twos are older and rich Group threes are sort of related Group fours are here for the bitch
Group five - childminders and aunties Group six - predominantly grans Dads are around, blanking it out Oh, what a freedom is man's
The children are anxious about all sorts Sliding and numbers and clowns But here at the gates there are pressures The smiles only just cover frowns
Who has the fanciest audi? Who has the best behaved kid? Who has the record for housepoints? Who knows what so-and-so did?
Who is invited to this do? And look now who's pregnant today? Who is that wearing full make-up? Some people, I ask you, I say
Oh, to be local or family Oh, to be somewhere but here Oh, but I'm not, I'm just waiting Can't wait for the end of the year
Originally from the north of England, I live in Angus, Scotland where I walk a lot, think a lot, listen to lots of music, sometimes write poems, sometimes read poems out to other people, sometimes write songs, read all kinds of odd things, watch a bit...oh and I look after my family too.
I sometimes organise poetry and music events - details are usually here (though nothing coming up in the near future). This year I went travelling with my family - photos and notes are here. Now we're back I have moved to a new regular blog - it is here.
More about the song
You can buy my book (published 2008) from my website if you fancy it (go to 'book' page) or from www.amazon.co.uk if you prefer the comfort of the multinational corporation. My book is printed on recycled paper and card. I have 12 different poetry postcards available too.