Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monsoon Season

Image of monsoon with lightning
June was a cruel month. The rain fell relentlessly washing away so many hopes and dreams.

It poured through the sills of the living room in the Leamington Garret, after a freak downfall which overwhelmed the guttering, scoring a direct hit on my vinyl LPs, CDs and tapes. I discovered what had happened when I tried to switch on my old music centre - and got a large electric shock. Two hundred and forty volts running from the casing, which had shorted to live, through me to earth. Never had the sticker on the centre - the Power in Music - seemed so apposite.

Nearly all my music was soaked through. Last week was hellish with the Garret stinking of damp, with every LP cover and sleeve and CD or tape notes spread out on the floor to dry. It is amazing how much space LPs and CDs take up when fully unwrapped. There was not a spare square inch in our living room.

It has been a tough time for other reasons. The day-job has been hard. I haven't taken a break since February and the daily grind has been getting me down. As has the weekly commute, made more tortuous by the incessant rains and my ailing constitution. I feel jaded. I have not even taken any photographs this month, as you will see from the dearth of them on this particular blog.

On the night that the Leamington Garret was flooded, however, I did venture to Coventry, which was virtually submerged, to make my poetry debut on the local radio station, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire Radio. I was on for about half an hour, with the station's "Poet Laureate" Jo Roberts - a most amiable lady - and the presenter Alan. Jo read a topical poem and then I read three of mine, Women, Cook And Drive, and Lose Hill.

Between poems we chatted about the state of modern poetry and, to a lesser degree, comedy. I was pleasantly surprised by how interested the presenter was. It was a really good conversation.

But it was soon back to reality. My head has been in all sorts of places in June and, after making a big effort to put a good selection of First Anniversary poems on the Oliver's Poetry site, I found it hard to get down to writing or revising my poems. Although I have plenty of ideas for new poems, I haven't started writing any of them.

I did, however, make an effort to learn some of the old ones, through tape-recording them and playing them repeatedly on my long commutes. Partly for this reason, I had a great gig at the Word in Leicester, where I performed Probably Not, I Fought The Law And I Won, and Chav.

It has not been a very creative time, though, partly because I feel burnt out by my continual efforts to find a day-job closer to home. After applying to the local council - the most difficult and time-consuming form I have ever completed; it took a week of my evenings to do - and not even getting an interview or a call back when I phoned them, I almost lost the will to live! I fear I shall be stuck in Leamington forever.

At least Tony Blair has gone. He is a remarkable character but I do not think he was a good Prime Minister. I was trying to think what is Blair's true legacy. Did he make Britain more peaceful? (because of Northern Ireland), or more bellicose? (Iraq), or nicer? (as Matthew Parris has suggested). No. His legacy is making Britain much more bureaucratic.

Over his 10 years at Number 10, almost every part of British society has been pervaded by a Civil Service culture, where form-filling, grant-applying, process of every ilk, and generally gratuitous pen-pushing has usurped real work. Where once Britain was a nation of shopkeepers, now we are a nation of bureaucrats. This is Tony Blair's true legacy.

I quite like Gordon Brown. I have fond memories of the occasion in the 1998 when he phoned me up for a chat about Scottish football (I was writing an article for a supplement in The Times). He was good humoured and witty, even it must have been absolutely obvious to him that my only knowledge of Scottish soccer was coming out of a two quid book I had purchased at the corner shop. He certainly did not embarrass me by pointing out my ignorance. But whether he cuts the red tape that is strangling British life is doubtful. All the same I wish him well.

The smoking ban had also come in. A few years ago I would have thought this a bad thing. Now I am enthusiastic about it. Life in the Leamington Garret has been more pleasant since it went smoke-free late last year, and if the ban stops commuters lighting up as soon as they jump off trains, that would be bliss.

Things can only get better. Who said that? 

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the structure of your blog, as I'm relatively new to blogging. I particularly enjoyed the 'Women' and 'April Flurry' poems.

Have a look at my blog: www.poetryminer.blogspot.com


Sunday, 22 July, 2007  

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