Tuesday, 30 March 2010

You think you know a song...

All that Poetry Bus action...I'm a little worn out now...and I have visitors arriving later so this will be just a quick one.

A little while back the guests at our local folk club were The Mick West Band from over the other side of Scotland. Mick is a powerful singer and one of his showstopping numbers is a really lovely cover version of a song you might have heard once or twice before. I can't find it on youtube but if you go here and click on the little player on the top right you can hear it (and I presume it's legal...it looks legal). Backing vocals on the track are from the stupendous Karine Polwart no less and the song is featured on the band's 2004 album 'A Poor Man's Labour'.

The album looks like this

Off to do baking and cleaning now.


Saturday, 27 March 2010

Poetry Bus, Poetry Bus, where are you taking us?

Hello and welcome to the first stop on the Poetry Bus Tour – a little place we could call the Rambling Stop. We know few limitations here...and we're setting off on Saturday because...well, because we're ready.

So – the guidelines (loose...very loose...) were back here. Once your work is done send me your links and I'll add them to the end of this post.

First off, here's my own offering.

The word I chose was...


It's another simple, everyday word (that's my world, folks, that's my rediscovering-the-well-trodden-paths-approach...). It is an everyday word but it's such a huge monster of a word at the same time though, isn't it? Aren't they all when you look closely? I've never done any of those wordle/word cloud things with my poems but if I did I'm pretty sure LIGHT would be shining out of anything I produced like a big ol' torchbeam staring into the eyes of startled rabbit (or something). One of my most complimented poems ('Not tonight, Radiohead' – it's here – video and/or text) is an awful lot to do with 'light' (in many senses) and I'm sure there are many, many others I could dig out linked to light too. Still, you just can't have enough poems about light, can you, so here's another one. It's a short one – and I used to write quite a lot of little poems (whole section of them on my website...) but I haven't done so many lately. Time to put that right.

Light house

I gasp to breathe it loudly in
Bright juice of mother-father sun
So hot here holed in glassiest house
With shoots all fighting, bursting, wasting

RF 2010

And now you lot...words and poems aplenty. For anyone new to the Bus this list will grow and grow over the next couple of days. Get yourselves on it...put your link in the comments or email it to me.

First out of the bus garage is crazyfieldmouse. The word over there is unforeseen - can you compute?

Meanwhile it's all about the bliss over at Jeanne Iris' place.

Stone is the heavy word over at Dominic Rivron's.

Karen's Keeping Secrets but sh...I know her word...listen...it's serendipity. In fact she has two poems up - the other one is here.

It's him...it's the Blogfather...it's Totalfeckineejit...and his word is guddle.

Peter Goulding has chosen snogging. And why not..?

And now it's Day Two and here is Shaista at Lupus in Flight waiting for the Bus. Her word I'm thrilled to say is yes. What a great choice.

Don't we all love The Weaver of Grass? Her word today is scrimshank...sounds like my middle name...

Anything's possible, they say, and that's the word over at The World According to Evalinn.

Enchanted Oak has gone for another biggie...another word that gets thrown around a lot...it's hope.

Niamh Bagnell at Various Cushions has sensibly focussed on essence.

And the dog has chosen a horse - Titus has gone for hippocampus. Tally-ho!

Perhaps Sunday's last entry before I turn off this machine for the night - here's Heather from Ragged Old Blogger (with another dog!) and her word is springtime.

Well, it did used to be the Monday Poem...lots more to add today starting with Ann at Inkpots n'Quills. Her word is chivalry.

Emerging Writer is chitting us. Really.

Mojo at Why? What have you heard? is on a voyage of discovery. Go and find out what, where and why...

Argent at one of my favourite-named blogs (Delusions of Adequacy) is running with quicksilver. And now I must run...got to get a girl to school on time...

And on we go...and the next traveller has the nerve to ask for two words! NanU at Have genes will travel wants let's go. OK, you're on...

A mystery for you to solve over with The Watercats maybe...

Will this be the last passenger..? It's a little bit of science with Cosmic Rapture. And so ends Day 3 with this driver.

Day 4 and here's Susan Sonnen. She's on the prairie. Lovely.

A trifle tardy - here's Domestic Oubliette and her word is firkle.

And they're still coming in...it's Pure Fiction with pool.

And whilst Swiss didn't make it to the Bus this week, he has posted a map for the next trip. See you all then...


Friday, 26 March 2010

Speaking of Radio 4...

I really fell in love with radio for its music (say back here) and I'm still not exactly friends with any kind of talk radio (though I do keep trying). Saying that I enjoyed this week's Poetry Please on Radio 4 (on here for a few more days). As ever there's the hypnotic Roger McGough introducing but this week it's a USA poetry special and well worth a listen. I enjoyed the Frank O'Haras most of all (remember I started this year with him back here?). There's a bit of Diana Hendry on the programme too.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

A quick party political broadcast

I didn't have plans to post today but couldn't resist putting this up. I was sent a message about Elvis McGonagall's show in Glasgow (tonight) and though I won't make it I did nip to his website and see a fine video clip of him in action. Maybe he's someone else I'll have to bring up to Montrose for one of our Brilliant Poetry nights...

p.s. Anyone looking for the Poetry Bus...see last post.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Get off the bus and...

(By the way ANYONE can join in with this writing task...whether you've been on the Poetry Bus before or not...though I suppose you need a blog..or something...to post your work on).

So, I am the first stop on the Poetry Bus tour (the Bus is more usually found at TFE's).


How you doin'?

Recovered from this week's Protest Bus yet?

I wouldn't have got on this bus in the first place if it wasn't for JoAnne McKay (otherwise known as Titus)...and now here I am driving (and man, do I hate driving!). Partly because of this I am going to park the bus up for a while...and we are all going to get off...and walk (or you can bounce if you like...see photo above...).

So pick up all your things and let's set off...rambling...exploring...where on earth shall we go?

Into the world of words is where we'll go because your writing task this week is as follows:

1.Pick a favourite word. It can be a long word or a tiny word, a complicated word or a simple everyday one, a new word or something archaic that keeps trying to fall out of the dictionary. I really don't mind. Any word will do.

2.Write something using that word as your starting point. It can be a poem. But I use the term poem VERY loosely. Loose is good...in most instances.

3.Send me the link to your poem-post on Sunday 28th or Monday 29th March and I will add it to the Ramble Stop post on here. You can email me the link if you like (tidier...innit...send to author@crowd-pleasers.net) or put it in the comments box here. I work different hours to our usual host-driver so if you send me something in UK daylight hours I will probably get to it fairly quickly but I don't work late into our night these days so if you send it during our (conventional) bedtime I won't get to it till the next morning. Just so you know. Plus we have family coming to visit on the Tuesday so I won't be doing much here that day either. OK?

I thought of this task the other day whilst walking our dog. It came to me because there was something online a while back about favourite words and I was a bit disturbed because I couldn't really think of any. I don't think I'd ever really thought about words in those terms before. Partly this is because on the whole I like (or am interested in) all words (with the exception, perhaps, of diarrhoea...on all counts....and here we are with the loose again...and not least because I ALWAYS have to look it up in the dictionary to get it right...it just won't stay in my mind...which is good, I suppose). But then, since failing to think of anything for the post about favourite words, every now and again I see a flash and realise 'ah, ha! That is one of mine! I do have favourites!' Perhaps unsurprisingly so far my favourite words have all been quite everyday ones...nothing too fancy...just my way, you know. I realised, for example, that one of my favourite words is most definitely 'love'. Does that seem dull? Frankly, my dears I don't give a damn because I am just wild about love...in every sense...and I always have been.

And speaking of love...remember TFE's Valentine's Bus Ride (back here). Well, I wrote two poems that week but I only posted one - a rather twisted Valentine's experience (here). I also wrote a fairly straightforward love poem for my man and I thought I'd post it today...for him...for a couple of people I know who have just found the big L again...for all of you bus travellers. It's not very exciting...but then love doesn't always have to be.

The detail

You send me messages
'On time', 'on way home now'
And they're a thick coat
To keep me warm and well

You tell a joke
Maybe an old one
And it's a tonic
A perfect pick-me-up

You walk beside me
That calm and steady pace
And it is oxygen
I keep on breathing

RF 2010

I will be writing a new poem set off by one of my other favourite words for the post (I hope...if something comes to me by the weekend...) and I'll post it at the Rambling Stop on Sunday (or maybe even Saturday, if it's done by then). In the meantime...get thinking, get rambling, get writing...


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Still we rise – protesting and poetry

Time for our next poem for TFE's Poetry Bus. Let's start with a song about words from a band well-known for their protesting:

Next – an extremely hefty intro to a fairly short poem. Some of you might want to skip this bit (long...rambling...edited about a hundred times) and please feel free to go straight down to the poem if so. Do I even agree with everything I've written in the paragraphs below? Well, sometimes...

So our brief for TFE this week was to write a protest poem. He made it clear that, as ever under his reign, this was a loose term and that we could protest about something silly, something deathly serious or indeed anything we liked in between. There are a lot of people and places that talk about being open-minded but many of them mean 'open-minded if you think and write like me' - happily TFE is a long way from that kind of delusion (though I'm sure he has plenty of other delusions, eh Peadar?).

For me there was little decision making to do about what kind of poem to write. Serious, arrows-to-the-heart protest poems (also known as political poems) are one of my big poetry loves so I was more than happy to try something in that area this week (in fact I'm more than happy to try pretty much all subjects and styles but this zone is definitely one of my favourites). Though political poetry can cover a wide range of work (like 'protest' political is a word that can mean many things) it is unashamed out-and-proud political poetry that is one of the styles of writing that moves me most of all. I can enjoy lots of other genres within poetry too... I like lots of humour and wordplay and weirdness and beauty and careful little considerations...but a good, strong political poem...is there anything better made with words? And while we're on the subject I might just say (loudly!) that I like lots of the big, famous political poems (poems that seem to embarrass a lot of the people who hang out in the blogs and backrooms and poetry magazine HQs these days...). I like Adrian Mitchell's 'To whom it may concern', I like Maya Angelou's 'And still I rise' and I like them for many, many reasons. I like them because of their power and because of what they've meant to so many people. I like them because they are poems that said loud and clear what other people thought but could not quite express in such startling words and I like them even more because they are such strong poems that they speak loudly still (sometimes years later). They are not involved in the boring old 'either literary or performance' considerations because they are so far beyond those kind of silly categorisations. They are fighters, these poems, and they are frontline...because someone has to be.

This is a subject I think about quite a lot (like every time some genius says “of course, most political poetry is dreadful...”) but it was on my mind again this week partly because I was exchanging words with someone about it...on facebook (I know...I know...). Partly the disagreement arose, I suppose, because political poetry means different things to different people (a bit like the neverending 'this is good', 'what's good?', 'everyone knows what good is', 'no, they don't' etc.). So what might we all agree on when it comes to political poems? That a political poem has a message (almost a dirty word, it can seem, in serious poetry circles sometimes...)? That message might be big or small and it need not be all the poem is about but it must be there (musn't it?). It can take many forms – it might be a comment on something or a subject that has not been tackled previously in poetry or a triumphing of a certain way of living perhaps. There are poems like the ones mentioned in the above paragraph but then there are slightly less rabble-rousing poems too (like Carol Ann Duffy's 'Warming Her Pearls' – that tackles sexuality, class...some of the biggest traditional unsaids in our world). It's not necessarily a simple matter of course - the poem might have one message or it might have a few (it might even have lots and lots if it's really clever). Like Duffy's 'Pearls' it might not be about an obviously political subject either - in fact I would say that some poems that think they are political just because they're tackling a big political subject are not, in fact, coming out with any truly political messages at all (but that's when we get into the nitpicking I suppose...probably not very helpful...). One of my feelings on this subject is that a political poem can be subtle, for example, but if it goes too far into subtlety I think it often weakens, or even loses, any political ambitions it may have. No matter how beautifully made some poems are they are unlikely to have much effect on an audience or readers if subtlety wins the day too completely (and please be clear on this – I am not saying 'no' to subtlety as a general rule – just that you can't have everything...what you win on subtlety you may lose on effect, power or message). A political poem (to be doing its job perhaps) needs to speak to an audience, to communicate with them and if it doesn't I'm not sure to what extent that poem can be said to be protesting or working in any kind of political way. Might the poem in question, for example, help someone understand something or change someone's mind (other than the poet's loyal best friends and admirers who probably already agree with that writer already anyway)? Might the poem stir anyone to, say, go to a demonstration, do something about change in the wider world or even just think about changing something in their own lives (I've been reading a lot of Mark Steel this year...I am filled with revolutionary fervour!)? Could that poem be read aloud, for example, to a crowd (not just a crowd of poets...) and stir hearts in that crowd to the point where those hearts (and minds) seriously want change in some form (and this is my deciding question, I suppose)? Does it really make people think? There are small moments in politics (many of them) but political poems need to be moving more towards the big moments, don't they (or at least thinking about them)? They are surely not about a poet ticking off something on a list (“jolly good, there's my anti-war poem done, next stop poverty!”) but what they are about, I think, is the poet feeling insanely anti-war in every bit of their being to the point where if they don't write that anti-war poem they will explode! Does that sound too crazy? To me it doesn't. Political poems are about feeling over form, ideas over reputation, the subject over the writer (although maybe poetry's about that a lot of the time...) and for me this kind of poetry is one of the areas where poems can really excel. To me it seems such a wasted opportunity if we don't keep hold of this style in some form, if we dismiss it as a thing of the past ("I mean, it was OK in the 1960s and '70s but really, no-one's being that obvious these days..."). Not everybody can write a good political poem that's for sure (though that shouldn't stop them trying, I don't think) and certainly a major earth-shaking political poem is not something you can write week in, week out but that doesn't mean the aim should be abandoned altogether. Poetry is not just about subtlety and pat-each-other-on-the-back cleverness and if we limit its potential to subtlety alone then I think we are doomed to be part of the big proverbial problem. Up in the poetry premiership it seems that poets are allowed to be more free and political (if the mood takes them) but down here in the lower leagues there is a silly tendency to put political poems (and indeed anything that speaks directly to a listener) into a file marked 'bad' or 'performance' or 'not to be taken seriously' and I worry about this knee-jerk reaction. I worry that because of it we are going to somehow abandon proper stirring, heart-grabbing poetry in this era simply because it is something like embarrassing and because it is felt that showing our motives and thoughts too clearly is wrong. I feel ridiculously strongly about this. I may make placards.

And now onto this week's poem. I've written quite a lot of what I would call political poems (in fact I have a suspicion that a huge number of my poems could fall into that category...I have a poem about dancing back here, for heaven's sake, that always seems fairly political to me in its way). But as for this one...I've had bits of this poem in my head for years and even now I'm not sure it's the one I really wanted to write (maybe that's still to come). It may not seem subtle...but I think it probably is more subtle than some people might realise (eh?). So am I now contradicting myself completely? No, no, no...here it is anyway:

The wrong sex

Will it ever end?

The men were beaten
And the women were raped

Will the stories ever stop?

The girl was dragged from the path
And raped by her assailant

That girl - where has she gone?

The accused raped his wife repeatedly
Because he could
Because he could

Do you dream of walking anywhere?

It's just a few - bad - apples

And the next crop?

We hold their hands tight
We speak of gentleness
We make them stronger

RF 2010


You can find links to everyone else's protest poems this week here.

Friday, 19 March 2010

The best song ever written?

There's lots of things I could be posting...but this post of Juliet Wilson's just made me think of this song (and it's a live version so the vocals are natural and not tidied up...):

Is that the best song ever written (OK, in English)? Maybe (and maybe is the only answer you need...of course there is no definitive answer!). And look at that crowd! That's what I call an audience...


Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Nelson and the water

So... a quick post. No time for rambling...

You know Helena Nelson? Ms HappenStance publishing? Poet? Co-star of the poetry event here in Montrose in April (tickets selling nicely, I'm pleased to say)? Well, I found a poem of hers at the Herald's website this week (here) and I really enjoyed it. So go and have a read. Go on...

According to the site 'Treasure (a homage to W H Davies)' is one of the poems in Nelson's new chapbook 'The Unread Squirrel' (and you can find out how to buy that here).

See how succinct I can be?


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Bright, brighter, brightest

I'm not feeling too well this week to be honest. Is it just the thought of the StAnza poetry festival and all those poets clamouring that brings me out in a rash? No, it can't be...

Anyway I have been watching films to take my mind off other things. I watched 'An Education' and enjoyed it - she really is a captivating actress in the lead role and indeed all the casting is excellent (Alfred Molina as crap Dad is especially good). It's full of lines about how 'I simply must go to Oxford' (not an actual line) but as long as you can cope with that you'll be OK.

Then yesterday I watched 'Bright Star' - Jane Campion's movie about John Keats (1795-1821) and Fanny Brawne. It's a very beautiful film (as you might expect) and it's slow and meandering and shows you a fair amount of boredom, frustration and stupidity early 19th century style. The lead actors are very, very watchable - almost as pretty as the bluebells. A while back I did read the Andrew Motion biography of Keats that Campion worked with but I can't say I enjoyed reading that as much as I did his Larkin biography (but then Motion actually knew Larkin so that probably helped the book have more life). What I did enjoy in this film though were quotes from Keats about poetry (in the film they come out as he tries to teach Fanny about his art). Here are a few:

"A poet is not at all poetical. He is the most unpoetical thing in existence. He has no identity, is continually filling some other body...the sun, the moon..."

"Poetic craft is a carcass, a sham. If poetry does not come as naturally as leaves to a tree than it better not come at all."

"A poem needs understanding through the senses. The point of diving in a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out...it is an experience beyond thought. Poetry soothes and emboldens the soul to accept mystery."

And then he died (more or less).


Saturday, 13 March 2010

Two for one - Poetry Bus special offer

Well, when I first saw TFE's task for this week I thought 'no way'. Using two lines already written, mentioning a fashion designer (fashion...god, I am so far from it...you have no idea!). And then...and then...

These are the starting lines we were given:

'She was wearing Stella McCartney
I was drinking Stella Artois'

And I guess it came to 'yes, way' in the end as the poem they brought me to is below. You could call it 'doggerel'...but I might just call it 'another poem'. (I did have a longer paragraph here but I changed my mind about it and deleted).

Not a star in the sky

She was wearing Stella McCartney
I was drinking Stella Artois
There was something special about her
Not the usual down at our bar

Expensive and perfectly pretty
And not watching the keys to her car
So I took them and childishly hid them
Without them she'd not get very far

I could keep her stashed here in our lock-in
Woo her sweet with a heavenly jar
She might stoop, take me shopping for outfits
It's too long now I've been insular

Then I look at my glass - also pretty
It's half empty but pints often are
And I know I've the money for one more
But not two – this is no Shangri-La

So I'll miss her, the muse in McCartney
Never get to her secrets or bra
But I'll cuddle my liquid for comfort
It's my sparkling, my easy, heart's star

RF 2010

And on a slightly similar note I thought I'd add another poem I wrote this week. I didn't get round to a new train poem last week (when the rest of the Poetry Bus team did) but on the Wednesday after something did finally come to me (partly thanks to reading all the other fascinating, varied poems on the subject – links to them all here). Here's mine:

Just another brief encounter

I used to fall in love all the time
Several flights a week at the peak of the madness

Take this one long train trip years ago
I was heading due south (Paris to Madrid)

There was this young checked-shirt, all-American guy
(Blue-jeans, guide-book, back-pack, deck-shoes)

We talked in the sunshine of the vacant corridor
Just we two, just chatting, standing outside of everything

And I don't remember his name, a single word that was said
Or if there was a kiss or any embrace involved

But I remember that I loved him, that much for sure
For an hour, with a passion, like a woman possessed

RF 2010

And the photo at the top? Mark took it in a hotel in Amsterdam (he was there last month for a friend's birthday jaunt). Fancy, huh?


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Been around the world and I, I, I, I....

Moving smoothly on in a geographical fashion...here's a meme I found over at Niamh Bagnell's Various Cushions. It's quite a fun set of questions and good for making a person think about where they've been and where the hell they're going (in my case - see post below...anyone not handed over their Irish expertise yet?). My answers in the early sections may make you wonder if I ever did anything as a child other than watch TV. I think I did read the odd book too. And I lived, evidently, in the stickiest of sticks.

So, (1) you must begin your post with a geographical joke.

I'm really bad at remembering proper structured jokes so you'll have to make do with this old one:

Bloke 1: My wife's gone to the West Indies.
Bloke 2: Jamaica?
Bloke 1: No, she went of her own accord!

Told you it was old.

Then (2) you must then credit the geographical joke to the source.

That one is such an old joke that it could have come from anywhere. In fact it's so old that there is a whole blog named after it (see here) full of other jokes in a similar vein (honestly there is). You can find absolutely anything on the interweb you know.

Next (3) in as few words as possible - explain your earliest recollection/ awareness of the following:

This was looking at the map to see where all the other countries in 'It's a Knockout' were quite probably (TV was my life when I was a child, apparently...“and the Belgians don't stand a chance!”). Also a German teenager came to stay with us when I was about 5 (she was the daughter of a friend of my Mum) and she brought great gifts and amazing chocolate. The latter certainly made me more interested in the rest of Europe I must admit (though 'Fawlty Towers' confused me no end...'what war?').

I probably became aware of America in the early 1970s. I imagine I first looked at the map to find the USA to see where Utah was (home of the Osmonds, of course! Stop laughing...).

This took me the longest to think of – when was I first aware of anything to do with Africa? I suppose there was 'Daktari' and 'Born Free' but the thing I really remember is 'Roots' which came a bit later (1977). I did watch all of 'Roots' (glued to my seat - it was amazing) but even in that a lot of it was set in America, wasn't it? Beyond that the first time I really thought about Africa I suppose was when I met some Africans (and that was at secondary school). There was a family of kids from Nigeria at our school, plus a family whose parents were from Somalia. There were others who weren't African but whose Dads were working in Africa (in Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Saudi Arabia). Having Dads who worked abroad seemed to mean access to lots of cheap gold jewellery and stacks of cheap audio cassettes. I never liked the gold but I did envy them the tapes.

Sorry, folks, this must have been Rolf Harris (I played 'Two little boys' over and over and over!). Plus I remember looking at the photo of my cousins who lived in New Zealand (the photo was in my Granny's house) and thinking how sun-kissed they all looked. Oh and I have a vague memory of a TV series about lots of children in a big rambling house that I thought was called 'the Young Australians' (but trying to find it online all I can find is a 1973 show called 'Seven Little Australians' and it might/must have have been that I suppose).

I did a big project on India at school when I was about 10. Maybe that's the first time I really thought about Asia and where it was on a map. I still have the folder for the project...I remember I was desperate to get it to 100 pages and did a lot of cutting out of holiday brochures.

(4) Next say what is your furthest point travelled (from where you are now, I suppose).

North – St Petersburg (Russia)...though it was called Leningrad and it was in the USSR both times that I visited.

South – San José, Costa Rica.

East – Moscow, Russia (though once again only when it was the Soviet Union).

West – León, Nicaragua.

(5) What is the longest time you have lived in one place and where was it?

I lived in Leeds (West Yorkshire, England) for 9 years (but not in the same house...I moved 9 times in those 9 years!)

(6) And the shortest time living in one place and where that was?

I think this would have to be two months in a house in Arbroath (Angus, Scotland). We were in between houses.

(7) Give a brief list of places you have lived in, in rough order of appearance.

In my case they're all in England (unless otherwise bracketed) - Co Durham, North Yorkshire, Co Durham, Cleveland/Teesside, London, Madrid (Spain), Cambridge, Nottinghamshire, West Yorkshire, Angus (Scotland)

(8) And finally - how many addresses have you had?

Twenty-nine and I know this because a few years back I did a writing/memory exercise with myself where I wrote them all down and tried to remember as many details as I could about each residence (people I knew there, items in the house, what it looked like, things that happened there etc.). It was a really good exercise - I would recommend it.

And the title of the post? From this song of course (there's a song for every occasion...and I think I need to get out more...).


Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Irish advice?

Remember last summer I took you all with me on holiday (after a fashion)? Remember all the photos and the mystery tour (14 photo posts starting here and ending here and all the links put together in the end here)? Well, this summer it's kind of the other way round...I need your help deciding where to go and what to do.

We're going to go to Ireland...that much I know...and there'll be three of us (2 adults, one girl of 10) and we'll probably go on the ferry and arrive somewhere on the north east coast. I know it will be in our school holidays (that's July and the first half of August) but after that I've not a clue as to what we're going to do and no sign of any inspiration right now. So, can you help with advice? Where would you suggest we absolutely have to go? Know any great places to stay? Want us to come and visit? Want to invite us and then hide behind the sofa when we arrive..?

I have been to Ireland before - details being...

Trip One (1990 or so)
I was about 23 and working in advertising and had a company car (white Ford XR2 – quite flashy). A friend and I (and a really annoying friend of hers) did one of those insane driving round Ireland in a week holidays and we spent a stupid amount of time in the car (the folly of youth...). Highlights of that holiday were staying on my friend's relatives' farm in Fermanagh and milking their cow, getting ridiculously drunk with lots of Dublin civil servants in Dingle (they were all there for an Irish speaking weekend or something...) and eating a very nice curry in Cork. Lowlights were getting the car stereo nicked in Dublin on the first day and hating my friend's friend so much by the end of the week that I wanted to push her off the ferry on the way home.

and Trip Two (2001)
A friend got married in Dublin and off we went (Mark, very small girl child and I) to join in the celebrations. It was a great wedding and we had a few days sunny sightseeing in Dublin. The only lowlight this time was leaving our outfits for the wedding at home (doh! I blame flying nerves...) and so having to spend the first day of our trip shopping for suitable clothes. I got a very cheap and cheerful lilac top and skirt and someone actually said to me at the wedding that I was wearing "last season's colour"! Can you believe that! It really made me laugh (like I knew...like I cared...) but I should point out that this fashion expert was not a local (but an English woman...nae comment).

So, back to the plea for help. Basically I have been to Ireland but at the same time I kind of haven't (because I've either been young and in a rush or just in Dublin and breastfeeding). So – what shall we do? Where shall we go? Help us bloggers, help us...

p.s. Knew I'd forget something - poem up at Ink, Sweat & Tears this week too (it's here).


Sunday, 7 March 2010

What - these old things?

Photo taken back in 2008 at the Bridge of Dun end of the local volunteer-run Caledonian Railway.

So TFE's task this week is that we write something to do with trains. For various reasons I've not really been in a position to come up with a new poem this time (and hey, I did write TWO new poems for last week's effort!) but I've managed a recent poem or so and a couple of bits of music. Think of this more as the buffet car than the main body of the train. Or something.

First off, in only October 09 (back here if you want the intro and build-up) I was writing about trains and history and my hometown and songwriting (amongst other things) in a poem called 'Rolling stock'. Here's the poem again:

Rolling stock

People talk, people sing about homeward bound
Of the place where they stay, where they'd like to remain
But the wheels of our lives go round and around

Take a town, Darlington, once so key and renowned
As the place where they rolled out the age of the train
People talk, people sing about homeward bound

The tracks of our trains may now seem run aground
But in 1825 they were our future - plain
The industry wheels going round and around

Locomotives moved coal and then folk by the pound
All thanks to the whirring of George Stephenson's brain
People sing, people long to be homeward bound

But progress takes over the wheel, so we've found
From the foot to the cart, from the car to the plane
Faster and further, around and around

Still we look for a home and listen for its sound
Where will it be, do we know its refrain?
People talk, people sing about homeward bound
But the wheels of our lives they go round and around

RF 2009

I also wrote a poem (that became a song) about trains and planes a while back. This one came about because one day I was just about to board a Scotrail train from Montrose down to Leuchars (south of here) when I saw and heard fighter jets zooming by. Leuchars is the local base here for fighter planes so I pondered on how much quicker they would get to their destination than me (amongst other things). I read this first as a poem, then it got a chorus and a few outings as a song but for now (because I'm not working regularly with a musician) it's a poem again. I've left the chorus in anyway though...sing along if you feel the urge (with or without music).

Leuchars, here we come

It's the strangest coincidence
Meeting you here today
Here's me on the train
There's you up and away

We're both heading south
Destination the same
I'm on my way to Edinburgh
You're in a jet fighter plane

Up and away
Up and away
Come back quickly
Slowly stay

We could chat on our trip
We could flirt, gently so
Except you're moving so fast
And I'm moving so slow

You travel the air
With such style and such speed
No stopping for passengers
No in-flights to read


You race past the geese
And they move pretty fast
They hit all their targets
No Sat Nav or maps

You can't smell our loos
And you can't meet our guard
You see us as tiny specks
Just as we see the stars


I'm not one for war
For its gadgets and toys
And I know that sometimes
You can leave more than noise

But here you have power
You roar by, stir my heart
Make kites look unambitious
If a good place to start


How I hate to fly bulk
Hate those cattle truck things
But you're something much finer
You're excitement with wings

And the whole world is laid
Before your Top Gun eyes
Take me with you, my pilot
To your view in the skies

Chorus to fade

RF 2005

Now for other people's music...who sings more about trains than blues singers and blues bands? One band who's been to our folk club a couple of times is the international-but-based-in-England blues band Spikedrivers. They're really great live and I would recommend you see them if you get the chance. However until then here's a clip of them doing a suitably trainy song called 'Train done gone':

Also here's English folk singer Pete Morton singing his much-covered 'Another Train' at what seems to be a house concert in the Netherlands:

I mentioned him once before (he has a song called 'I'm in love with Emily Dickinson' as much as anything else).

So, that's my contribution this week. And don't forget...if you have a water poem you want to share with the world head down to the post before this (scroll down or click 'older post' or go here) to see the terms and conditions.


Friday, 5 March 2010

World Water Day – poetry please

It's World Water Day on Monday 22nd March apparently...and over here you can read about proper serious scientific events being held in Dundee on that day (organised by the UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science). They want to link to poems about water so...what have you got? If you post a watery poem on your blog and link to their page (as above) they will link to you in return (if you send your link to this email).

So, here are a couple of my watery offerings...first here's one I posted back here in 2008 as part of my Fridge Magnet Poetry project:

Nature falls

Why here, why now
Does it rain like future?
Our grey old present
An eternity lake

We ache and sweat
How wet, how bitter
We rust like drunks
Supped up, fit to break

RF 2008

Then there's a fairly old one about the simple things (water included):

Simple stuff

Stream rushing down the hillside
Cool, clean and with direction
How I would like to be you
Not dazed, not lost, not sad
Too murky to mention
Not hopelessly, stupidly
Stumbling through

Tree growing tall in woodland
Strong, useful, admirable too
How I would like to be you
Not pathetic or rattled
By a host of minor phobic complaints
Not rootless
No let's hear it for roots
For without them what is there
To remain true to?

Sand collected down on the shoreline
Intricate, simple, the best of extremes
Oh how very much I would like to be you
Broken but whole, moving but still
Dead but so very busy still being around
The answers I crave
I see them in you

RF 2005

Finally here's a little one I wrote years ago...long before I lived near to the sea:

Flat good

I have a picture
Of the sea
It has a calming
Effect on me
This is no small feat
Not small at all
For one so flat
And hung on a wall

RF years ago

So what have you got water-wise? Sorlil, you should have enough to last us till Xmas, no?

p.s. Today's photo was the view from our upstairs window back when we lived in Auchmithie. It was taken in 2002. I miss that view!


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

A (bilingual) song for March

The other day I found myself in an Art Garfunkel kind of a mood and so I put on the CD 'Breakaway' (1975) that I bought back in 1999/2000 when I was pregnant and 'I only have eyes for you' was one of the songs I suddenly couldn't get out of my head (odd things happen when you're pregnant and some of them are musical). 'Breakaway' has the version of 'I only have eyes...' that I seem to remember from childhood and I have a real soft spot for Garfunkel all round – he's been fairly overshadowed by little Simon but in many ways I shouldn't think he minds. I heard him interviewed on BBC radio once and he's one of those people who likes to just disappear off and walk for weeks at a time. A man after our own heart, eh walkers?

Garfunkel definitely got a mention in my favourite singers post (way back here) and here he is now singing another song that's on 'Breakaway' and that seems appropriate for right now:

Of course this song was originally in Portuguese and was written by the giant of Brazilian music that was Antônio Carlos (or Tom) Jobim (1927-94). There's some great back story about the song here and there are various versions of the original online. Here's one by Elis Regina and Jobim:

Back soon with more music I suspect.

Monday, 1 March 2010

And there's more...

Because you know, atheists can have visions too...and as if two poems in the last post weren't enough for TFE's challenge this week here's number three. It is an afterlife vision I had yesterday evening. Mark had been watching a documentary about mathematical infinity (lots of men in messy studies with bad hair...says me from a messy desk with...regularly bad hair...) and I guess I went from there.


Or infinity

You go to sleep
And doze for a while
But when you next wake
You're at the top of a chute
You're down
And BANG onto something

You've hit a landing
Not hard, not soft
And you lie for a minute
Try to get some bearings
It's familiar, warm
And welcome enough
Oddly salty though

It's some kind of beach
An endless strand
And all around
Are grains and grains
And grains of sand
The strangest thing is
Maybe you're one too

It's all in place
There's hiss of sea
You can't see very much
Just sand and more sand
All faceless and neutral
Is that sky above?
It might be blue

There's no sign of the slide
Though it's not gone away
There's just you...
And all these grains of sand
All sizeless
All toasting under
What must be sun

You don't really have eyes
That's clear enough
And yet still you see
The grains next door
You'd love to touch them
But no hands, you see
No hands

RF 2010