Sunday, 30 December 2007

The chicken or the fish?

So xmas survived (just). Thought my beloved was dying at one point but it was either a stomach bug or too much brandy cream on the xmas pudding. He lives.
Now Grandma is ill! This part of winter really has been one long list of bugs and illnesses and I'd worry about my cooking/hygiene/mattresses if it wasn't for the fact that, judging by radio dedications, everyone else seems to having the same sort of run (as it were, oh Frankie Howerd, where are you when we need you). Plus there are other things to worry about (like assassinations, nuclear power stations and babies being eaten by dogs).
But all that taken into account I still wonder - will we make it to the New Year party (on the 2nd in fact)? We had a NYP for the first time last year and it was one of my favourite days of the whole year. I love old-fashioned parties with kids and whoever turns up of every age just messing about and eating and singing and drinking (but not like the nightclub drinking of days and nights gone by...). These parties are more like weddings (without the boring bit) or funerals (without the sad bit). You get the idea.
So fingers crossed we make it to the 2nd without any more problems. And happy new year.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Will you just cheer up? broke up and of course Xmas is now underway. And it's not so bad. So I'll cheer up. I've got my Radiohead poem out of the way (see MySpace blog) and that got rid of some lingering thoughts on misery too.
I think I find Xmas odd because it's the 'family holiday' and family has always been such an odd subject for me (and I know I'm not alone there). That and the whole religious angle (why do people find those particular stories so appealing? A simple question..a simplistic one...but still a question).
That's why I've always preferred New Year. Dancing, late nights, friends, snogging people you barely know (well, not the last bit anymore but that's certainly what it used to mean)...that's much more my kind of holiday.
Survive Xmas and Happy New Year anybody.

Friday, 21 December 2007

And so this is Xmas...

And so it is. Schools break up in about 20 minutes which leaves me approximately 15 minutes of humbug time left and then I will be dragged, kicking and screaming I assure you, into happy xmas mode by my very excited 7 year old. 'Can you believe it's just 4 days til Xmas?', 'Can you believe it's just 3 days til Xmas?' etc. Yes I can, yes I can. There seems to have been a lot of stuff this year about sensible xmas shopping and all that but no-one's told the under 10s...they still want piles of tat and Santa egg cups and Santa socks and anything and everything with Santa on it. Luckily I have lots of daft friends who buy these things for my daughter so (a) I don't have to and (b) she doesn't have to feel deprived of tat as a result.
It is time to put away other topics like poetry (my life? feels like it sometimes) and get on with bloody chestnut stuffing and bloody mince pies. I'm not usually this humbugified...I think it's probably just the season of flu and colds that seems to have been non-stop started. Could be worse... I could be in hospital like my good friend Forbes (star of the Montrose Review!). Hope you're home for Xmas, Forbes, and sorry to any readers for any unpleasant grumbling. I am cheering up...5 minutes and counting...

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

I felt I should finish the thought and say how well aforementioned small girl did in her part as the lion. She was just gorgeous and so were the other 100+ kids. Just don't mention the parents...lions and tigers and...well, you get the idea.

Even I managed without the magical transporting footwear and got to Edinburgh by train (and back - without ridiculous incident) for the Poetry Pamphlet Xmas Fair. It was a day when things worked - the trains were on time and not packed, it didn't rain (despite the forecast), I found a possible new place for cards, I picked up 'Northwords Now' and there was a great review of 'Pushing out the boat' with the kind of lovely namecheck that makes a person quite giddy, the pamphlet fair was lively and friendly (well, can never get on with all the people all the time), my cards have been selling well in the Poetry Library, I met some really nice interesting people on the train, Edinburgh was looking as beautiful as a city ever can...What a day. The kind of day that makes you think the world isn't that terrifying after all.

And now home. Peace. Quiet. Might even manage to think about something other than errands (messages?) and tea and school and animal costumes.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Put 'em up, put 'em up

My little girl is being the cowardly lion in her class xmas mini-version of the 'Wizard of Oz'. She is nervous and I know this because she keeps telling me 'I'm really nervous now'.
Funny how hard you try to get your offspring to be better than you but most of the time you're wasting your time...they will be what they will be. Some will be nervous, some will be pushy, some will make huge disastrous mistakes, some will find life a breeze (there are people like that..I've read about them). As ever I am doing my best not to be nervous many things it would be tiresome to list them. Cowardly lion indeed...
Could really use the ruby red slippers for getting about and avoiding crowds too.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Man flu

Am having that 'glad to be alive' feeling you get after a really bad flu! I could kiss the ground, I really could. I could kiss random babies too...except of course that would just be spreading germs so not such a good idea.
Heard another great singer the other week - Kat from Australian band Colcannon. She was of those big strong voices that sound like they could pick you up and carry you halfway round the world. They were guests at the folk club - excellent band too. Even better she was really positive about the poems I read and interested and all that. Felt like a real poet... which is always encouraging and helps me think I'm not completely wasting my time...
Not much poetry this week though - lots of aching and half asleep/half awake days...What day is it anyway? And who am I again?

Thursday, 8 November 2007

How many blogs?

I seems a bit excessive. I've started putting stuff on the blog on myspace too. I'm going to use this one for rambling and thinking apage and the other one just for adding new poems.
So that's clear.
Watched 'Britz' this week (recorded from last week..). I really liked a lot of the detail and minor characters and the confusing bits and the muddy areas. The main brother/sister story was your usual dramatic device business but in amongst it all there was some great writing and acting and thinking about complicated questions. Very sad but very good.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Sundays are for blogging

So it seems that Sunday night is blog night. Why is that? Is it a look back over the week kind of a thing? I've always written a lot on Sundays - usually for Monday morning deadlines - but this is different. No deadlines here. Not even any obvious reason for doing it at all. A futile exercise? Perfect - the purest joy.
So this week...worried a lot about not writing anything significant or relevant or any good. Is that futile too? Some people tell me they love my poems and all the stuff around them (that'll be the waffle then, some of it is very meaningful). And when people laugh at the bits I think are funny it does feel great and as if my dream of being something like a female, non-smoking, Dave Allen might even come true. Sometimes. But there's no rush. And a lot of other stuff to think about besides me!!
Back to life...might even enjoy some of it.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Back up where we belong

So you see...I knew I'd feel better in a week or so! It is tricky being a person of extreme moods but when you get the hang of it and know it's coming it does get easier...a bit...
Last week was doom and gloom, this week is pretty good. Verona and I had a great time at the Amnesty International gig in Carnoustie. Poems went down really well and people said such nice things - it was really encouraging. It more than makes up for some of the less enthusiastic reactions from poetry magazine editors and the like. I've never liked snooty people who like keeping things high and mighty and away from those dirty masses....why should that change now?
Anyway it was a really enjoyable night with a lot of good musicians and friendly people. Beats a night full of miserable/incomprehensible and/or ranting poetry any time. Am I traitor? Quite probably. Am I afraid of competition? More likely I'm just arrogant (is that worse?). Does anyone care? No, most unlikely. Go to bed now? Yes, getting child to school on time is advisable. 'Don't fink too much' as my friend's cockney Mum always said. I will try that.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

It doesn't take much

Some of the time I keep up a really good pretence and almost seem to be a person who knows what they are doing and is getting on with their life quite well. Other times the pretence is less successful. I find there are certain triggers which I should avoid because they show up the holes in my cover too well. These triggers are-
1. Coffee - I pretty much always avoid it now after too many problems in the past. Just one sip and the cracks start to show pretty quickly. Twitchy, nervous, desperate, me?
2. Driving - too competitive, too many unknowns, too bloody dangerous. Can't hack it. Have left kitchen, couldn't stand heat.
3. Radiohead - I really like the music but it's too much what my head sounds like when I am worrying, panicking or just generally bemoaning the terrible state of everything. It is too true for its own good. If I were stronger I could listen to it without being terrified of my own crapness but I'm not sure that is an option - well, not today anyhow. Maybe next week.
4. Airports and aeroplanes - even watching people in an airport on TV makes me feel ill. I am going to go and live in the shed out the back I think. It's quiet there. Well, unless the neighbours are in their hot tub listening to 80s soft rock, it is.
Things will be better in a few days...

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Voices of the north

Had a great night on Friday at the charity concert at the Links in Montrose. So many great singers and songs! Verona and I did a song too but we were (just for a change) the 'least experienced in show' and really we just enjoyed hearing others show how it's done. Folk songs, songs from Violet Jacob poems, bothy ballads...a real mix from Jim Reid, Geordie and Joe, Phil Smith, the folk club regular band of jokers and, my favourites of the night, Marjorie and Thomas from Forfar. I just love unaccompanied singing when it's done with real passion and feeling...nothing like it. Unlike a lot of people at the concert I didn't grow up listening to this kind of music (I never know any of the songs when they say 'you'll all know this one'...I think they'd be appalled if they did know what songs I do know the words too...). Anyway, good to feel good...

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Another day, another set of worries...

We did our Brechin show last night...many thanks to loyal friends and acquaintances for their support as ever! Verona had her first real battle with terror at performing but emerged victorious (in fact 'Love song without a tune' was better than ever). We gave 'Spanish nights' its first outing and got through it and out the other side. Ole! People liked my William Lamb poem (never done that one out loud before) and some of the others that always seem to go well ('Generation less', stuff like that). I felt good about the poems and what Verona calls the waffle in between. We all have out strengths - mine is intense waffle apparently. Brechin Arts Festival is a great little festival - lots of variety and interesting venues.
It's been a funny time lately. I think I am over the honeymoon period with myspace. It is a good way to find music but it's a good way to feel crap about yourself too ('why did I send that message to that person? Now I look like an, I am an idiot). It makes me feel like I am in a long not-very-funny episode of 'Seinfeld' and I am George, always George. I guess there's a poem in there somewhere. Just as well I have some real, flesh and blood friends - very good ones too. Friends and Mark will keep me sane-ish. Thank goodness for them.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

The only Fringe that matters

Out of the Woods was great. We were quite possibly the least experienced musical performers on the bill but somehow we managed to get through both songs without disaster and the crowd were lovely. It was fun - more than I would ever have imagined. Alison who sang the bitter and twisted songs after us was fantastic - kind of strong voice I would love!

In the meantime we will now be doing a show at the Brechin Arts Festival Fringe - at the Caledonian Hotel, Brechin on Friday 28th September at about 10pm. It will be poems with some songs mixed in. I will get Verona to do as many solo songs as possible...I like being a full-time poet but singing for me had better stay part-time. Not sure I have the range for anything more!

Tuesday, 28 August 2007


How anxious and weird does a person have to be to find a yoga class too stressful?
Answers on a postcard, please.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Highs and highs

Good news - the couple liked the wedding poem I had been asked to write for them (see worries several comments below). I had started to dread the feedback...even if you're not a wedding person you don't really want to ruin someone's day with badly judged poetry! So they liked it and all is well there.

On the singing front things are getting out of hand. After our third 'appearance' at the folk club we seem to be getting carried away on a tide of over-confidence (except we don't feel over-confident...we're terrified) and we are singing at Out of the Woods down Dundee way on 2nd September at a songwriters' showcase. Are we crazy? Will we actually collapse under nervous strain? Already had my Winehouse overdoing it phase years ago...far too late to use drink and drugs to get through it now. Herb tea and pies it is then. And practice, practice, practice...

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Ranting lives

If anyone is reading this...sorry about the long rant below. Guess those annoying literary journals still wind me up! Must forget they exist...shouldn't be too hard.
Back to MySpace surfing...addictive personality, me?

Monday, 6 August 2007

Poetry matters

Hmmmm...the poetry world is a strange one. Ever since I started thinking about getting poems out of my notebook and into the rest of the world I have been having problems with the more or less accepted way of doing things for unknown poets (once you're in any way famous the rules change and you can do anything you like). It goes like this - option (a) - you write tricky, clever, wordy, deep, highly worked poems that in truth very few people can make head, tail or left leg of and you send them to literary magazines that nobody reads except poets, academics and poetry magazine editors, you get a CV, a reputation (if you're lucky) and book published by a small publisher and then you teach lots of creative writing classes (to make more poets like you) and complain about how the rest of the world doesn't appreciate real poetry. Or there's option (b) - you write snappy, funny, maybe rude, maybe rhyming poems and you perform them live (because nobody wants to read stuff like that) and you drag yourself to slams and open mics and perform them to lots of other poets and their long suffering loved ones and you get a CV, a reputation (if you're lucky) and a job on the radio now and again and then you teach lots of performing workshops (to make more poets like you...except you're not allowed to call yourself a poet - you're a performance poet and not very serious after all).

Now some might say (be quiet Noel) that this is simplifying things (albeit using lots of very long rambling sentences). Maybe you know lots of people who have managed to sneak between the options and be allowed to be just poets (not literary poets or performance poets). You might say who gives a damn. And I know in the great scheme of things (war, famine etc) it's not exactly up there with the world's great problems...but it bugs me. Bugs me quite a lot some days.

It bugs me that the so-called literary magazines think their poetry is better just because it's harder to understand. That if you're not in exactly the place they expect to find you that you must be crap, unimaginative, more a performer than a writer. It bugs me that most of the best poets wrote quite a lot of really simple things (that's how they got popular - people could understand them!) and that they wrote the stuff these magazines tell you not to write - ie. personal poems, funny poems, weird poems, poems people can understand. If Philip Larkin were trying to get 'This be the verse' published today he wouldn't stand a chance. And Robert Frost, love, 'could you work on the metaphors a bit more - they're so obvious'.

I don't know why I still send poems to the poetry magazines. Partly because I have had the odd bit of success here and there. Partly because the more people tell me 'no' the more I say 'why not - why does it only have to be one way?' Partly because I get such good reactions from other people (ordinary people...non-poetry executives). But maybe I will give up soon enough and concentrate on getting the poems out and about in all the other ways - the postcards, the website, the performing (well...some of it ...I can live without poetry slams I think). Then there'll be no more letters (like today's) telling me my poems are 'too personal'. I am a lot more thickskinned than I was it doesn't upset me the way it used to. I am fairly bloody-minded and sure I am right. And anyway, Wendy Cope has already answered that particular criticism years ago in her poem 'Manifesto' - 'And if some bloodless literary fart/Says that it's all too personal, I'll spit/And write the poems that will win your heart.'

I do it my own way. What other way is there?

p.s Watched 'I heart huckabees' last night. It was fantastic. 'Rock, you rock' indeed.

Friday, 3 August 2007

why space?

Decided to try the whole my space thing...have used it a bit for looking up other people so far but decided to have a page for poetry stuff and then, more bizarrely, a page for the songs Verona and I are doing too. I feel a bit like I've been taken over by an alien lifeforce or something as far as the music goes...still it's a lot of fun and some of the songs are, well, not bad at all. Would still like to have a voice like Kate Rusby or Corinne Bailey Rae or pretty much anyone but me...but I still don't intend to be a singer. It's just a way of working and getting words around.
Details are
We will be back at folk club soon and also singing at Out of the Woods in Dundee in September. I hope these aliens know what they are doing.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

What if you don't believe

Had a strange one recently. Someone asked me to write a poem for a wedding - I didn't know the couple but it was a nice person who liked my poems needing something to read at their wedding. Odd predicament. I'm not a huge wedding fan, have never wanted to be married, never dreamed of white dresses, still not changing my mind ten years in to long 'committed' relationship with child etc...In fact I pretty much hate the whole idea of weddings and marriage and the more Tory MPs insist it is the solution to all life's problems the more I feel the opposite. Some time ago I wrote 'A wedding poem (not to be read at weddings)' (on website for anyone who's interested - under Occasions) pretty much taking the piss out of weddings and that's been quite a lucky poem for me. Could I now write a wedding poem that wouldn't offend anyone on one of those 'big days'? Was I the right person for the job?

I decided it was a challenge so in the end I asked the person concerned for information about the couple and said I would give it a go but couldn't promise anything. It turned out that a poem did appear (I find they either fall out or they just don't!) and I was quite pleased with it and so was the person who will be reading it out later this summer. The poem is honest - I can't write any other way - and it's about hopes for the future ...which is about all the future ever is. I still think weddings are overrated, unnecessary and a big con but hey, that's just me. Good luck to the rest of you...

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Quietening the terror

We did it again! At folk club last night (guests Eilean Mor from Australia were great by the way) Verona and I managed another song. This one was 'Sing when you're nervous' that I wrote the words for way back and that we gave a tune to just recently. Verona played her guitar brilliantly despite crushing nerves and I only came in at the wrong time once...Not bad for a pair of old mothers. Someone did ask me afterwards if I'd ever thought of being a stand-up comedian...not sure what that says about the singing but there you go. Onwards and sideways.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Sing when you're nervous

After a year or so of reading my poems and songs without tunes at the folk club here in Montrose I took the plunge and went for a song this week. My pal Verona and I sang one of my songs that does have a tune - 'Light o'er the sea'. We were fairly nervous but we survived and it was kind of fun really. We did it bothy ballad style and people were very nice and complimentary (or kept criticism to themselves). We may do it again...I have found tunes suddenly appearing recently so now several of the songs have tunes or half-tunes or half-an-idea-for-a-tune. It's fun and something I never thought I'd do.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Music to keep

Currently being very boring and talking about nothing but a new CD that arrived in the post from my old school friend Ana Laan. Ana lives in Spain (what she was doing in a school on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors in the early 1980s has always been a mystery) and she is a fantastic singer and songwriter. 'Chocolate and Roses' is Ana's second album (follow up to 'Oregano') and features more songs in English than the last one. This CD is better than you can possibly imagine. Ana has a my space thingey and you can hear a song or two there. 'Chocolate and Roses' should definitely be released in the UK.
That's it. I'll shut up now.

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Live and direct

Very much enjoyed appearing as part of Wordfringe at Aberdeen Library last week. I had wondered how I would fill an hour but in the end I could have gone on for much longer (whether the audience liked it or not). I felt like one of those blues guitarists who just want to play all night...odd feeling but fairly pleasant. Exciting and relaxing - like all the best altered states. Many thanks to all who came out to see and hear 'Lost in Music'.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Pushing, pushing

I attended the launch of Aberdeenshire's writing magazine 'Pushing out the Boat' in Banchory last night. I have a poem in it which always feels good! I'm not used to anything like literary events but it was OK. Even my faithful companion survived it (and enjoyed some of it) and that when there's a Champions League semi-final on TV at the same time (the true test of love and devotion...).
We especially enjoyed the readings by Stephen Pacitti, Morag Skene and Haworth Hodgkinson but it was all interesting. Roll on the rest of Wordfringe...

Friday, 6 April 2007

April already?

Not very good at keeping up with this blog thing - seems so odd doing a diary that's public after doing a private one for years...Still, maybe no-one will ever read it so it's private and public and kind of pointless. Oh well, not the first pointless exercise I've been involved in.

Went to see Karine Polwart gig in Dundee this week - what a marvellous woman. Incredible songs, a huge loving crowd and she was really interesting and entertaining too. Anyone who has not already got her first two albums should put this right straightaway. Better poetry in there than many a so-called poet could come up with in a lifetime. It was interesting to hear Joni Mitchell talking about poetry and lyrics on R2 recently too. But then it was interesting to hear her full-stop. Another fantastic songwriter and all round talented woman.

As for little old me - an odd time recently with family stuff going on and not much writing or thinking time. Still - another poem in this month's Snakeskin ezine which is nice, a poem read at the HappenStance launch and poetry cards now on sale in the library in Southwell, Notts (thanks to family mafia-style tactics). And my little girl will be 7 soon!!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Unsuitable information

HappenStance Press launch an anthology at the Scottish Poetry Library this Saturday called 'Unsuitable Companions'. I have one small rude poem in it and may well make the event - life depending. Lots of the poems in the anthology are very funny - a much underrated virtue in the world of poetry and writing in general. Anyone can be miserable and weighty...a sense of humour takes work. for all details
I went to StAnza at St Andrews this weekend gone. As usual far too many bloody poets about but apart from that it was OK. I entered the Slam on Friday which was very much the St Andrews version (very academic, very polite). It was interesting but the whole popularity contest thing felt a bit Fame Academy and weird. I think I prefer the folk club experience - you know where you are with a banjo. Also I didn't win...
Met lots of interesting and friendly people at the Poetry Pamphlet Fair on the Saturday.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Northwords Now

I have a couple of poems in the latest edition of "Northwords Now". This is a great free paper available all over the north of Scotland (plus a few other places too). It has lots of poems, articles and a good clear lay-out with beautiful images used throughout.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Postcards new

Just collected 3 new postcard designs from the printers. Will be mailing them to all outlets next week. Now have 9 different cards altogether. World domination by postcard..? It's a slow job.

Also have a poem on new edition of Snakeskin ( Getting a 'yes we like this' reaction is so much better than a 'this stuff is not our cup of tea'. Yes, obviously it's not a cup of tea at all. It's a poem.

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

WordFringe 2007

I will be appearing at Wordfringe in Aberdeen on Tuesday 15th May - 7pm at Aberdeen Library. Special guest Andy Fellows from Leeds bringing his many instruments. Music and poetry...because an hour of just poetry is cruel.

StAnza International Poetry Festival - Pamphlet Fair

StAnza International Poetry Festival - Pamphlet Fair
Saturday 17th March, 2007 12.30pm – 5.00pm
St Leonards School Hall, St Andrews.

I will be selling postcards at this event. Exciting life isn't it?

Hello world

I live in Angus in North East Scotland. Originally from the North of England, I have been writing poetry for nearly ten years. I publish my poems as postcards and read regularly at the the folk club in Montrose. All poems are online...well, nearly all of them.