Friday, February 20, 2009

The Bleak Mid-Winter

Blimey O’Reilly! What an absolutely depressing beginning to 2009!

I cannot recall a more miserable start to a year. If I was still working up in Leamington I’d be suicidal.


What with ranting Robert Peston's recession (soon we’ll all be brassic lint and speaking in silly voices), the ceaseless bad weather, obnoxious outpourings of Jeremy Clarkson and Jonathan Woss (why is it the rich and famous who are dishing out the abuse? What have they to moan about?), and general bad-temperedness of commuters on the train, it has been a ball-buster.


Apart from gushing Kate Winslet, is anyone feeling happy about their life?

To compound matters, I have not been particularly well, a cocktail of minor complaints that make my life uncomfortable.

I was so knackered by the end of last week that I just lay in my bed in the early with the electric blanket on attempting to keep warm. I wish hibernation was an option.



Let’s look on the bright side.

I succeeded in not drinking a drop of alcohol during January, and the Poet Chef kept up his roasting of various joints (pork, lamb, beef, chicken) during the month.

The January gig at Lewes Poetry was great.



Lewes poet Catherine Smith read well and pulled in quite a decent crowd as well as a respectable number of open mic poets.

It was an excellent evening even though, or perhaps because, I was as sober as a judge.

And there was a hilarious moment when her performance was interrupted by the entrance of two boys asking for their tennis ball back! (They thought it had somehow magically made its made in from outside through a closed window.)

With the help of hypnosis, I have been gradually memorising a selection of my poems to help to improve my live performances.

My first outing without my poetry book, at the Poetry Café in London, went amazingly well.

I recited a couple of poems word perfectly and they actually went down much better than they would have done if I’d read them.



And, yet, there is so much wrong with our dysfunctional country it is hard not to feel down at heart.

Every day I see the misery etched on the faces of the people on the train to London: the abject penpushers toiling pointlessly for this department or that; the no-longer-deluded financial service posse wondering if that day will be their last of paid employment; the ragged-jeaned builders soon to return to their eastern European country of origin which is now no poorer than Third World Britain.



“The end of boom and bust” – what a lie that turned out to be.

How long how Golden Brown keep up the ludicrous claim that the economic mess we are in has absolutely nothing to do with him, despite him running the economy since 1997?

People I see around London every day are getting seriously depressed.

The trains were delayed every day this week because of suicides.

Most of the passengers don't care; they behave like animals in their panic to get a seat.

Britain is becoming a nastier place, from sick people celebrating Jade Goody's apparently imminent death to the horrible toilet humour that passes as comedy with the likes of Clarkson, Woss and the rest of that overpaid BBC shower; from the BMW bastards who sacked thousands of workers an hour's notice to the union bosses who did nothing to the Labour Government that passed the laws allowing it to happen.

Half of Britain is in a day-dream. For instance we have been trying to buy a new radio for our VW van and made the mistake of going to Halfords in Newhaven.

We selected a suitable CD radio but last week the assistant refused to let me buy it, insisting I return to talk to the guy who fits the radios.

This I did, a week later, only to be told by the radio-fitter that it would cost 120 quid to fit the radio and the speakers we wanted and he did not have time anyway.

He told us not to buy from Halfords but to go to their rivals, Road Radio of Brighton.

What a waste of time.

No doubt the man was trying to save us money or himself a task, but if Halfords go bust and he is out of a job, he only has himself to blame.

Doesn't Halfords bother to train or motivate its staff?

Doesn't anyone have any pride in their work any longer?

If the Newhaven branch is typical, I very much doubt Halfords will survive the recession.

I find myself living increasingly in the past.

As always at this time of year, I start to wonder what happened to the numerous friends and mates I have lost touch with over the years.

The list is a long and chequered one.



I always yearn to get in touch with people but am held back by:

1. Lack of time to track them down (my contacts book was stolen at Finsbury Park Station in 2002),
2. Lack of time to meet them, and
3. Concern they won’t want to meet me (or, horror of horrors, even remember me).





The whole business of retracing the past plays large in my daydreams and nightmares.

Poetry-wise it has not been a bad time, I suppose.

Surprisingly, I have completed the first draft of my long, narrative poem, having written 200 stanzas.

Now for the challenging business of revising it.



And planning for the first birthday of Lewes Poetry – on Tuesday, February 24 – is going well.

The great Elvis McGonagall – recently slam poetry’s World Champion and a star of BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live – is headlining, performing a double set.

It should be a tremendous night (and only a Lady Godiva (fiver) in door-tax).

Another welcome development is that the legendary Frogmore Press approached me and asked if I would put on their published poets at a special night of Lewes Poetry on April 30.

It will be another good evening.

Its founder Jeremy Page pushed a copy of an old edition of Frogmore Papers through letter box. I have read it cover to cover - some excellent poetry.



I went to see Lewes FC play Wrexham at the Dripping Pan last Saturday.

On the terraces I bumped into Attila the Stockbroker and his charming wife who had come to see the Mighty Rooks battle the Mighty Red Dragons who, sadly, triumphed by 2-0.

I have written up this latest humiliation for the Rooks for my column High on Spring Water in The Mighty Rooks’ fanzine, Ten Worthing Bombers.



Anyway, Attila introduced me to stand-up comedian Mark Steel who was there to make a programme about Lewes for BBC Radio 4, and I ended up being interviewed about the glory days at the Pan, when the bar was open and we won our matches.

I felt a bit of a fraudster as I have never been an avid attender of matches, though those I have been present at feature large in my memory.



There I go again, living in the past.

At any point I can slip into a sepia existence.

My old schoolfriend Russell Tandy has written to me of his current odyssey in south-east Asia.

It is good someone I know is doing well.

The snow here was fun was a day but, after that, just made life harder and more miserable.

Here, the River Ouse has burst its banks in Lewes and as I left London the other night it was snowing again. Horrible wet snow. I wished I could escape.



But there is always something to put a smile back on your face.

I went to see the amazing American Jared Louche's Lewes Art Lab, Experiments in Darkness, Distortion & Delight at the Foundry in Lewes.

It was weird with a capital W, and also bloody cold. I could not honestly say I understood it.

It seemed rather random to me. Nonetheless I enjoyed it and take my hat off to the amiable Jared for promoting such a totally way-out event.

In tribute I have randomly littered this blog entry with images from it.

I look forward to seeing those of you who can make it at Lewes Poetry.

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