Wednesday, 29 September 2010

What blogger and facebook made me do...

You know how when you're online one thing leads to another... Well, yesterday somebody who is a 'friend' of mine on facebook (don't know the first thing about him... guess he's a poet somewhere... he requested me... as it were) posted the first part of a TV show by comedian Stewart Lee. It's very funny about celebrity books (and if you're from elsewhere Chris Moyles is a really annoying pop radio presenter... from Leeds, the shame of it).

It made me laugh so much that instead of going and doing something practical about the house I watched part two (because I can, hah!). This one is very rambly at the beginning (says me...) but gets going about four minutes in (and is then very funny about rap and BBC radio).

Then, of course, I had to watch the last part... which takes the funniest pop at Harry Potter yet ('Harry Potter and the na, na, na' being my favourite but it's all good).

So, that was yesterday (I did also do some other stuff). Then today Titus had some of a poem by Vivien Jones at hers (here) and that reminded me of this old poem of mine. It's in my book but I haven't done much else with it. It's too rhymey and comprehensible for poetry magazines (I finally realise that what they like best is complexity and, if possible, incomprehensibility... neither of which I'm good at). Ah well.

Pay heed to the special need

Personally I need a lot of help with moving
I need public transport, I need constant soothing
I need my hand holding and I need some quiet time
These needs are special and these needs are mine

You might need a teacher, you might need a school
You might need some help with obeying a rule
You might have a thing about folding and drawers
Those needs are special and those needs are yours

I can't do sitting in well-behaved rows
Snobbery and claptrap get right up my nose
I'm not very good at just following a line
So many needs out there but these ones are mine

You might be allergic, you might be alone
You might need assistance from more than a phone
You might need a moment, a break, just a pause
Because all needs are special, especially yours

RF 2006

Now off to do the other stuff again.


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Driving the Poetry Bus - first stop memory lane...

So who did you pick? And what have you done with your characters... fun, horror, misery, nostalgia, weirdness..? The prompt was back here – write using characters from some kind of children's story (in book, comic, TV or film form) as your starting point.

I picked the three girls from one of my favourite books from childhood – 'Ballet Shoes' (1936) by Noel Streatfeild. The girls are called Pauline, Petrova and Posy. My copy of the book (and I still have it... complete with homemade library stamp on the inside) looks like this:

I read this book several times when I was a child and I watched the series that was on BBC TV in 1975. I loved this story for many reasons:

- the girls are all abandoned babies (no tiresome family to deal with, no daft Mummy, no annoying Daddy),
- they are rescued by an eccentric academic with a big rattly house (who then wanders off abroad and leaves his niece, staff and, when times are harder, boarders/lodgers to deal with the children... and who wouldn't if they could, eh?),
- lots of the story is set in theatres (all the girls get to go to stage school thanks to one of the lodgers – the eldest girl is a good actress, the youngest a gifted ballet dancer),
- it's full of excellent details... about their outfits for stage school (knickerbockers with everything!), about their food (lots of hot buttered toast and crumpets), about their walks around London,
- it isn't all stereotypes (the middle one of the girls wants to be a mechanic/racing driver and hates all the theatre and dancing)
- and finally, my favourites are two of the lodgers who are older lady doctors (Jakes and Smith...serious academic types... they arrive together... one specialises in literature and one in mathematics... could this be lesbians in kids literature? Oh, I do hope so.).

Anyway, here's my 'Ballet Shoes' poem:

(temporarily removed - sorry!)

RF 2010

And now you, Bus trippers!

Jinksy is in the Hundred Acre Wood - here

Jeanne Iris has seen another side to Cinderella - here

Peter Goulding is up and running here and then all washed up here

The Bug is off to the Alps - here

NanU is building houses out of the strangest things - here

Jessica Maybury is thinking about carrots - here

Helen is off with Wonka - here

Dave King is seeing red... and he likes it - here

Cinderella is in demand - Chris at Enchanted Oak is taking another look at her here

Niamh has some games to play - here

Titus has an amazing man - he's here

Karen's chosen someone from what they call the good book - here

Muse Swings takes another turn with Cinderella (she's a popular lass!) - here

Doctor FTSE is all mixed up - over here

It's all blowing in the wind for Swiss - here

Izzy is flying high - up here

And our founding member (Totalfeckineejit) is running for the bus (and the windmill) - here

Mrs Trellis mixes up her Cinders - here

Oh, one of my favourites... it's Mr Benn and Domestic Oubliette - here

And still they come... Erratic Thoughts is on the trail of Tom & Jerry - here

Argent is in a spin - here

Keep sending me your links and I'll add you to the list. The more the merrier...


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Next week's Poetry Bus – back to the old school

I put this prompt up a while back (maybe you remember... back in August) but then it wasn't needed in the end so it was shelved for a while. It started with this:


Well, as you may also remember, our daughter (now 10) has always been a story addict. She just can't get enough stories, books, story characters, TV shows and movies (she's not that keen on poetry however...). For example, this summer she was fairly obsessed with the new 'Toy Story' movie (no 3 for those of you out of the kiddie loop) and she talked about the new film, she talked about the previous films, she played endless games with the TS characters, she tried to engage anyone (who would stay still long enough) in non-stop analysis of the whys and wherefores of the TS various stories... she takes it all very seriously!

And so this week's prompt is:

- think of a character (or series of characters) from a children's story, comic, TV series, film or other story source (it can be a new story or something quite ancient). You can stick to one story source or merge different ones – I'm fairly laid-back on such matters,

- write your poem (or similar) and post it on your blog,

- give me your link (in the comments here is fine).

I will put all the links in a post (complete with my own poem) and that post will probably go up this Sunday (26th). I know this is fairly early warning but the more time you have to think the better the poem (maybe?). You can send in your link any time. Poems are going up now - here.

And just to refer back to the last Bus stop for a while... remember I was writing about trees (here)? Well, here's the rowan tree in our front garden (taken on Sunday):

Exactly a year ago I posted a photo of the same tree
here and the autumn colour was not nearly so far advanced. Does this mean anything, nature experts amongst you? Or do rowans alternate like this regularly? Just wondering... just wondering...

See you later in the week for your poems...really looking forward to seeing which kids' characters you pick.


Sunday, 19 September 2010

My love is like a big, big tree... more Poetry Bus adventures

So the challenge for the Poetry Bus this week...

To write a poem that can be read at a wedding

I have to admit my heart sank when I read this prompt. I am not a wedding person at all... I've never been married, never wanted to be... and whilst I can enjoy other people's weddings and be happy if they're happy... weddings just don't really interest me very much. I'm a love person not a marriage person... though I will concede that you probably can be both.

Anyway, after grumping for a while I remembered that I've actually had quite a lot to do with wedding poetry. First off I was commissioned to write a poem for a wedding a few years ago (quite tricky as I didn't even know the couple). I wrote about it here and it all worked out well (sorry, can't publish poem – it was a private commission). Then I had two poems of mine chosen to be read at weddings last year - one was chosen by a friend (she picked 'Diving' – it's on one of my postcards) and one was chosen by a complete stranger (she chose 'Don't squeeze my shoes' and I wrote about that and the poem is here). Then I also remembered that the very first poem I ever read out in public was one about weddings - it's called “A wedding poem (not to be read at weddings)” and it's in my book (p.27) and on my website (under 'poems', under 'occasions'). It's kind of silly (with a serious undertone)... but people often seem to like it. Some people have even said they want it read at their wedding (though I don't know if anyone would ever go ahead with's a bit rude about brides).

So, that's it, I thought, I don't need to write anything new this week - I'll post the 'not to be read at weddings' one and that will do fine. And then I thought a bit about love... and what I might (in theory) write for Mark if we were ever getting married (no plans). I have written him a few love poems already but firstly you can never have too many and secondly after a little while I came up with something new so you may as well have it too! I haven't written a sonnet in ages... and in fact this one even ended up being a two-parter. I know people who write in traditional forms like this usually put in proper, thorough punctuation but it just doesn't work for me in poems (I did put in some full stops and then had to take them all out again – they just looked nasty). Also I know it's fairly unfashionable to use lines the way I do in serious poetry... but I like to really BREAK on a line-break (it just feels right to me). I pause, I breathe, sometimes I even go outside for a cigarette (no, that can't be right... I don't smoke...). Anyhow, I do it my way...(audio version here).

For the love of trees


For love the clich├ęs roll - here are some samples
You are my rock, my light, my rose, my heart
But prisons can be built with such examples
And prison can't be where we want to start
If love is really everything we paint it
Then words must flock to match that perfect hue
We should beware for moons and stars can taint it
So I must look with care for words for you
I look at you and listen to your sound voice
I wonder what it is that makes you right
I'm grateful that, just once, I made a good choice
I thank my lucky stars, and moons, each night
And more than rock for me you are my tree
I can't think of a better thing to be


Like rowan you have colour, reach and daring
Like oak you have a strength that I adore
Like sycamore you're very good at sharing
Like silver birch you leave me wanting more
A forest tall of love is what you've grown me
Each branch I grasp, each leaf I try to learn
A simple style of love is what you've shown me
Though tough it is a love that takes a turn
Who ever knows if anything is evergreen?
Who wants to worry endlessly like me?
A name is all a weeping willow's ever been
A willow doesn't weep - it is a tree
And I may cry a tear for you some day
But until then fast to your bough I'll stay

RF 2010


Friday, 17 September 2010

A Friday feeling...

I was a young person once (really). And when I was Friday night was all about one thing - DANCING. Sometimes I danced quite literally all weekend (sleep? Sleep was for wimps!).

Disco was the first music I ever danced to really and so let's have some of that to get us in a weekend mood. Here's a clip from 1977 (OK, I was ten then....not exactly queen of the dancefloor) but it has some really unforgettable dancing.

Happy Friday night everyone. See you soon for the Poetry Bus (this week's challenge here).


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Finally! A godfather!

I write about Gil Scott Heron quite a lot on this blog. He is one of my favourite writers, performers, musicians, famous people... and all that. He's been around a long time (put his first album out in 1970) and sometimes he even gets called 'the godfather of hip hop' – mainly because he has always mixed sung words with spoken ones (to great effect). I've liked some hip hop over my years as a listener but really only selected tracks here and there... for me a lot of hip hop fans and makers could do with listening to this godfather a lot more. Listen to how carefully he chooses and uses words, listen to how musical he is in everything he does, listen to his gentleness (even when he's very, very angry), listen to how you can hear every word he says, to how anyone could understand what he is saying and to how much he cares about that. Then when you're done listen to him again and again... until your brain throbs with envy at quite how amazing his work is.

OK, I'm gushing now.

Here are a couple of tracks from his latest album 'I'm new here'. After much hard living GSH is looking and sounding older than his 61 years and this album is a bit different to some of his earlier work too – produced as it was by XL's Richard Russell. It's a great piece of work though.

Here's the album's opening track 'On coming from a broken home (part 1)':

and here's 'I'm new here':

Don't ever say I don't give you anything.


Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Kind of still life

I've been working in the room that was my Mum's sitting room this week. The others have used it much more in the four months since she died but I do find it a bit odd in there. It was so much her room... it feels really odd without her in it.

Above you can see it on the day before her funeral in May. I put photos out for folks to look at... and some of the flowers that came too obviously. During the six years that she lived here she loved to sit in that room admiring her garden (she was Head Gardener, had the waistcoat to prove it), reading, chatting on the phone, writing letters, watching the birds (witness the binoculars), watching TV (murder dramas, tennis, Strictly Come Dancing and all), feeding the dog crisps and apple or just playing with Heather.

Not even really sure why I'm posting this picture. But here it is.


Monday, 13 September 2010

Answers, answers, looking for answers...

That friendly dog, Titus, sent me a meme over on the Starlight Barking. So here are my answers...

1. Why did you start blogging?

Back at the beginning of 2007 Mark (hi-tech man who has the misfortune to be my love'n'life partner) said 'lots of writers have blogs, you know'. Ever up with the avant-garde, I said 'what's a blog?' and this led to the format (his choice... must get round to changing it now I think about it...especially now you're all onto the new designs with more space and everything...). My first post is here (it's very minimal). I sometimes wonder if Mark would have pointed me in the blog direction if he'd known how much of my life and time it would take up. And then there's those days when I say 'someone's coming to stay at the weekend' and he says 'who?' and I say 'oh, just someone I know from the blog'...

2. If you could travel anywhere in the world with no restriction of costs, where would it be and why?

I'd like to see Chile...and I'd like to see non-Soviet Russia (have been to Russia but not since 1989)...but really I'm interested in most places in some way or other. Well, as long as I don't have to drive to them. And I'd quite like a private jet.

3. Did you have a teacher in school that had a great influence on your life? If so, what?

I suppose the teacher who influenced the way things turned out for me the most was the Spanish teacher I had at high school. I was the only 11 year old in a group with lots of sixth formers (it was an after school class) and she kept me involved in the group even though I was really a bit out of place (bringing me sweets helped). I went on to live in Spain and major in Spanish at Uni so it was a big part of my life for a while.

4. If you could spend the day with a famous person, who would it be, and what would you do?

Famous people..hmm. I really had to think about this one partly because one of the things about famous people is that we hear about them all the time and so who needs to spend more time hearing about them! And most of them, I think, are nothing like as fascinating up close as they seem from a distance. Isn't it the distance that breeds the fascination partly? Then there's the whole 'them and us' business (famous people=aristocrats of pre-revolutionary France, the mob=us...). In the end I honestly couldn't think of a famous living person I wanted to choose (I'm quite happy when Mark and I get a day to do stuff just the two of us) but there are a lot of dead people I'd like to meet and spend time with. I've got a few questions for William Shakespeare for a start...

5. Toilet paper – over or under?

This question got me in all kinds of trouble at Titus' place. I'm just ignoring it now. It is also, if I may be so bold, the kind of thing that gets blogs a bad name.

6. Name one thing in your life that you would do over if possible.

Just one! Actually I'm not sure I can think of any. Maybe I'd be a bit nicer to people when I was younger but I can't think of any particular incident. Sorry - dullness.

7. Tell about your pets – if any.

We have one 2 year old Border Terrier dog called Zoe (photo at top of post – she likes to dig on the beach and hide her front legs). We've only ever had dogs. I can't be doing with any pet that you have to keep in a cage or similar. And cats...never saw one I wanted to share a house with.

8. Do you live in a small town or a large town?

We live in a village that is very (very!) close to a small town (Montrose)... so really it feels half suburb, half village. And we're near the sea... which makes up for anything negative I might have to say about suburbia, anti-English sentiments and small town syndrome (well, for now). And just because I can't bore you enough with how lovely Montrose is - here's another picture of it – a William Lamb sculpture down by the seafront.

Poetry Bus poem is in the previous post by the way. And I never pass these memes on but if you haven't done it and you want a go... you know what to do.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

I can sing a rainbus...

So, the prompt for this week's Bus (here) is...colour. (And yes, I know I've a meme to do as well...I'll get to that next week).

I have a few colour poems...a red one back here and a blue one over here, for example. The one I'm going to post today though is one I wrote back in January of this year about...oh, you know...lots of colours in an easily recognisable arc. I haven't done much with it yet...partly because I suspect it is the kind of poem that will make some people cringe...and indeed sometimes I might well be one of those 'some people' (on the whole I'm not desperately keen on anything to do with rainbows, angels, waffly spirituality or anything even vaguely in that direction – remember this poem ''... not the work of a rainbow poet is it?). And yet...and yet... this is the poem that I have written. It started with a vision of a person on a cliff edge I had one time.

poem temporarily removed

So - have I lost the plot? And what was the plot anyway? I think I've forgotten...

For those of you who only call in for the Bus my other posts this week were mainly musical – a Rosenthal, a Reid and a Rusby (the Rusby with free poem). There was kind of a flying theme too.


Thursday, 9 September 2010

One more flight - with 'our' Kate

It seems to be turning into another of those juke box weeks on this blog... but I think it's a good sign... for a while there I could hardly listen to music (and that was weird). Here's a song from a 2007 album ('Awkward Annie') from one of the best known (living) English folk singers - Kate Rusby:

Yorkshire singer Kate Rusby is so well-known and popular that I imagine in some folk circles admitting you like her music is a bit like saying you like ABBA to a hardened indie kid or something (I don't know this, I should point out, I just imagine it might be the case). Luckily I'm still a fairly new folk fan (had never listened to the stuff before 2004) and so I don't have any strong allegiances and can just like whatever takes my fancy. I do like her voice but what I like most of all are her own compositions (and the song above is one of hers) – she's not known for it particularly but I think she's a really good songwriter.

Back in 2005 'our Kate' (as she's sometimes known on Radio 2) released an album called 'The Girl who Couldn't Fly' – so titled, she said, because of a fear of flying. I've had my own issues with aeroplanes too so I wrote what I used to call then a song-without-a-tune. It went a little something like this:

Not flying today

Too high too quick
It just feels wrong
Too fast too slick
Catapulted along

We’re packed so tight
And sharing no air
But everyone flies don’t they?
To everywhere

Oh, great, do you see
It’s not just me
Have you heard the new album
By Kate Rusby?

Trapped and belted
I can’t feel me
Where have I gone to
Where can I be?

Am I stashed in the locker
Or under the seat
Am I in with the sickbags
All folded and neat?


I quiver and sweat
And you don’t know why
You think I’m strange
Being scared to fly

But look at the ground there
That’s where I’d be
Give me the bus back
A boat on the sea


Yes, keep all your jets
And your pre-packed meals
I have my own wings
I have my own wheels

I’ll fly without airlines
I’ll give speed a miss
I’ll fly when I’ve landed
If I just survive this

Chorus to fade


RF 2006

I sent it to her even (well, to the record company)... but then I've sent a lot of mad letters to people (some with poems, some without).

Anyway, I'll be back at the weekend for a colourful poetry bus (yes, there is a prompt... it's here).


Wednesday, 8 September 2010

More flying

This week I've heard the song 'The Wild Geese' sung twice here in Montrose – once sung by Gary Anderson (at the Pushing Out the Boat event on Sunday – more on that another time perhaps... it was a great night out) and then last night by local singers Phil Smith and Marjorie Hughes at the folk club. The words to the song were written by Angus writer and poet Violet Jacob (1863-1946) and the tune by Jim Reid (1934-2009). Many of the people at our folk club knew and liked Jim Reid (there's an obituary for him here) and I did hear him sing and play at the club and at other local events in recent years. At one of these events I bought his CD 'Yont the Tay' and it really is very lovely (and still available). Here's Jim Reid (recorded in 1997, so it says) singing two sings tied in a mini-medley - first 'The Greylag Geese' and then 'The Wild Geese'. I haven't heard the geese overhead yet this season but it can only be a matter of days now... we get a lot of geese round these parts!


Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Fly away

Something to enjoy perhaps...


Saturday, 4 September 2010

The river bus

No preamble this fact no rambling at all - straight to it!

The Poetry Bus prompt from Pure Fiction is here. My poem... which at least vaguely fits the bill... is below (and the photo above is also only vaguely connected to the poem too... it's just a vague week... apparently).

All change, all the time

Standing in a river, fishing for minnows
You watch and you tense and your love is a weight
Further and further, your face is a picture
You're scared of all swimming, of danger and fate

All change

Thrown into a staffroom, with screaming and upset
Your mouth whispers hurt and your eyes are down low
It's harder and harder, your face is a picture
You wait for the end of this particular show

All change

Travelling elsewhere, faster and faster
Flying and reaching, forgetting to phone
You keep yourself busy, your face is a picture
You won't make a fuss, never frown, never moan

All change

Back from the flights and the featherweight fancies
Holding a baby and calling it you
You smile for your life and your face is a picture
People were always that thing that you do

All change

Caring and cleaning and being each other
It comes to an end when the story is done
Your eyes remain closed and your face is a picture
It's over, today, people die, rivers run

RF 2010

Bits of song lyrics fall out in my poems all the time... and it won't be a secret to many up-to-date Scottish folk fans that a bit of my last line here came out of this song (and once it was in, I couldn't really take it back out now could I?):

That song comes from the excellent 2008 album 'This Earthly Spell' by Karine Polwart. That album also features the lovely song Polwart wrote using Edwin Morgan words - 'The Good Years'.

Other posts you might want to read:

My Edinburgh in August tales of art, poetry, food and very little sleep are here.

Lots of quotes from Zadie Smith's 'Changing my Mind' are here. And while we're on the subject you can read the whole of one of her essays online (here). It's about TV comedy and fathers and it's well worth the read.

See y'all on the Bus (other poems going up now - here).