Today has been the first in a four day run of treats so OBVIOUSLY I woke up feeling like a bag of those lipo slops that they use for soap in Fight Club. I was out of honey and lemon Strepsils by about ten past nine and then accidentally bought the fucking CHILLI POWDER flavour Strepsils while walking round Boots in a daze. It’s basically Christmas Eve in Boots already. You can tell because they make you pay an extra £2 to buy lipstick that comes in a fucking box.
So the first of my treat days (planned since about June or something) involved stumbling around town, occasionally putting things in my mouth (cake!), composing whisky prayers and generally cursing old me for buying a ticket for a 9pm show this evening. NINE PM. If I’d booked for the 6pm I could have been in bed by 8. I can be such a twat sometimes.
Thankfully though, old me had very considerately booked one of those nice, relaxed, interactive round-a-table experiences where the performer refers to each audience member by name and your medicinal OJ is topped up whenever required. It was This Is Just To Say by Hannah Jane Walker, who I’ve seen in a similar kind of show in Edinburgh (The Oh Fuck Moment), except this one wasn’t so much of a comedy. It was more contemplative I guess, with several of her poems breaking up the various tasks we were given, but similar to The Oh Fuck Moment in the way that it was a genuine group conversation; guided in certain directions, obviously, but we were able to deviate when we felt like it and talk about things like the National Apology Day they have annually in Australia, which I’d never heard of before. It’s a really interesting idea, like a festival of equality. Every country should have one.
This Is Just To Say (as with most shows that take this conversational format) is successful because it makes stars out of the audience. (“Well, you would say that, innit Meg.”) We reveal ourselves to be good in some ways and bad in others. Turns out I’d have probably forgiven Hitler if he’d made a half-decent joke about the holocaust, while the guy sitting next to me revealed himself to be AN ACTUAL REAL-LIFE RACIST (his jokes weren’t funny though so clearly I couldn’t forgive him that). When it was time to write the apology we wish we’d received in the past, I instantly thought about someone who hadn’t crossed my mind for YEARS. Hannah finished the show by talking about someone who is never going to get an apology and shouldn’t bother waiting for one.
People are amazing really. We’re wonderful and we’re shitheads. The best shows are simply windows onto shit and wonder.
I first saw Kate Tempest at Glastonbury in 2007 when she was sharing a bill (in a tea tent) with my friend Gideon. I watched her in a big muddy mess of drugs and gore-tex and, like absolutely everything I clapped eyes on at the time, I thought she was the best thing I had ever seen. Then I forgot all about her until she wrote a play for Paines Plough, and when I talked to my new theatre friends I said “Oh yeah Kate Tempest. I saw her in 2007 at Glastonbury in a tea tent because she was sharing a bill with my friend Gideon. I used to be into gigs and festivals and stuff y’know.” But I never saw the play because I’m more bothered about direction and fancy production tricks than the playright.
And then tonight, a month before I leave Leicester, I went to an incredible spoken word night at a local theatre and she was headlining. It was full of cool young people in the kind of hats that make old people look old and young people look cool. It’s been sunny so there were young cool men in hats and vests. Dead Poets were on and did some stuff about the similarities between poetry and rapping, and then Polarbear came on and I was all like “oooh I’ve seen his one-man theatre show because I’m into theatre now y’know” and then an amazing poem by the guy who organised it and he was wearing dungarees with the straps hanging down like cool young people do in the summer, and then Kate Tempest.
When you’re at the theatre it’s brilliant and everything but deep down you know they’re pretending. Even with the kind of theatre you see where they’re not in character and there’s no fourth wall and they respond to the audience and have a slideshow or something, you know they’re ordering things in a way that makes their story work best. With spoken word, with poems, with Kate Tempest’s stuff, even though it’s totally constructed and rehearsed and edited and all that, it remains this raw flow of emotion where she raps some bits and says others and even sings others still as if she’s having some kind of floaty religious thing with her eyes closed and her head back. I completely love her. I was crying by about the third poem, and even in one of the talky bits in between where she said that we should all embrace the thing in our lives that’s bigger than us but makes us realise who we are, whether that’s hip-hop like it was for her, or something else. She did a poem for her sister that it actually feels really difficult to write about now but when she was says the words onstage it felt so natural to be hearing about all the most special, private, intimate things about her family. She gave me a lump in my throat and a smile on my face and I am completely unable to articulate it any better than that. It wasn’t anything like theatre because there wasn’t any pretending at all. I absolutely love her.
Ross Sutherland - My Shoes Are In Love
I’m pretty sure I’ve posted this poem before as a simple text post, probably around about the time I wrote Ross Sutherland a dirty poem without using any vowels other than O. I’ve just been listening to him on Jarvis Cocker’s 6Music show from yesterday, and have fallen in love all over again.
but it’s kicked me right in the chest. The Observer have given away a little book of Lord Byron poems, and just read this one without thinking of every break-up you’ve ever lived through.
So We’ll Go No More A Roving
So, we’ll go no more a roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a roving
By the light of the moon.
“What did we do with the trust of your vote?
Hired a flunky to flush out the moat.”
If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.Yann Martel, author.
My Shoes Are In Love
Although I’ve never seen them kiss.
But whenever I collected them from your hallway
they always looked so sad at my return.
(It always took ages to unpick their laces.)
“Hey,” they would say. “Hey, lets go to an expensive sushi restaurant,
or a mosque! Let’s go round to Michaels house!”
Michael, with his ambitious new white carpets.
I knew they were just trying to get rid of me.
Occasionally, I would scuff them
to remind them who’s boss.
Once, in a hotel, I kicked them off into separate corners
Both of them landing on their heads for the loneliest night of their life.
Because of the way I walk, one aged faster than the other.
I sealed up his slathering mouth with superglue
Re-inked him with biro when the other wasn’t looking,
then took them both bowling as a special treat.
And then I left them there, walked out in my bowling shoes,
Pinching at my toes all the way home.
Sometimes I think about my trainers and their love
that I had no use for.
I flick through blurry photos of them, all taken accidentally.
Caught off guard, looking away from one another
Secure in the knowledge that I will always be thereBy Ross Sutherland (my future husband, along with Mike Phillips from the Welsh rugby team and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
To hold them both together.
I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last few days, what with preparing for a haircut, actually having a haircut, and then lots of time spent in front of the mirror flicking the fringe of said new haircut backwards and forwards, but I have squeezed in a bit of reading too. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (so good they named it twice, etc etc) is connected to the last book I read, Rabbit, Run, because both titles include a comma which makes them look awkward when referred to in almost any sentence. Also, they are both absolutely magnificent.
I know I say this a lot, and every book I ever read has something about it that is ‘amazing’ or ‘brilliant’ or ‘incredible’ (yawn) but Iris Murdoch has a way of making words just slot into perfect sentences effortlessly. If I knew the first thing about linguistics, I’m sure I would be able to put my finger on exactly what makes her writing appear to flow like poetry, but it all just rolls along so smoothly and with such ease of expression. It really is amazing, brilliant and incredible.
She has also created the thing I love most of all in a novel; a protagonist who is a bit of a self-important twat. Hence my adoration for Gone With The Wind, and why I was so into Rabbit, Run (damn that stupid comma) and, in a slightly warmer way, Submarine by Joe Dunthorne. Speaking of whom, Joe Dunthorne is appearing at the Laugharne Weekend this year, and I am practically glowing like an emerald with envy at those who are going. In March and April last year I was having a bit of a crisis of impotence. I just generally felt useless and knew I needed to make changes in my life, but for one weekend, I took the meandering train from Manchester to Carnarfon, did loads of planning for my GREAT NOVEL while we chugged through Shropshire and the Welsh valleys, and then missed Patrick Wolf in order to drink Jamesons and Coke with Howard Marks, Keith Allen, and Elvis Costello’s manager. It was like stumbling into a literary version of Stella Street, just what I needed at the time, and this year the line-up is even better: all the regulars (Irvine Welsh, Allen and Marks, the Twin Town script reading, Simon Armitage) and then some, including Luke Haines from Black Box Recorder, a special show for nominees of the Dylan Thomas Prize, and a new musical project from members of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and Teenage Fanclub. And Joe Dunthorne of course. Oh, I wish I wish I WISH I could afford to go!
(I’ve just remembered the second half of last year’s Laugharne trip was spent in Pilton Working Men’s Club, watching The Travelling Band win Glastonbury Unsigned and then sampling every flavour of cider available in the whole of Somerset. I woke up on the floor of a Travelodge listening to Jeremy Kyle talking about paternity testing. Gooooooood times…)
Aside from reading The Sea, The Sea, I’ve also been keeping on top of the BBC’s arts blog by Razia Iqbal, who brought this whole poetry-in-schools debate to my attention. Turns out that London’s Mayor, dear old Bullingdon Bastard Boris Johnson, has been spouting off about how the youth of today won’t get anywhere without being able to recite poetry off by heart. Now, I’m never going to say that learning great works of verse off by heart is a bad thing. Nay, it’s positively admirable. But, surely enforcing rote-learning in schools is going to kill any passion for literature held by ‘kids today’? It’s like turning Edgar Allen Poe into times tables. Don’t we want to be teaching kids how to examine a text and to come to their own conclusions about the writer’s intentions, and the merits of the piece? If your sole purpose in teaching literature is to enable teenagers to bark out some Wordsworth at an Oxbridge interview, then things have gone askew indeed. That is time better spent learning tables. At times like this I’m almost glad that Boris Johnson is entirely ignored by over 90% of Britain’s population…
But, rant over for now. If I’m quick, I should still be able to squeeze in forty five minutes of hair swishing in front of the mirror before bedtime. I’m hoping to have something genuinely exciting to tell you about this weekend too, as tomorrow night I’m off to see a collaborative gig between one of my favourite bands (Tunng) and a band who remind me of exhausted suffering at one of the muddiest Glastonbury’s on record (Tinariwen). English folk meets electronica meets West African tribal rhythms meets chilled-out dub. Sounds like it’s going to be incredible…
I was totally worrying far too much about whether or not I had the right charity shop hat to wear to this evening’s Polarbear show. I thought I’d feel like a fraud and everyone would be able to tell that I consider The Streets to be cutting edge hip-hop just from my haircut, and even though the bar/foyer bit was full of graffiti artists and fit looking homiez in tracksuits, the show, If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me, was like a personal voyage through my own subconscious (if I was a ten year-old Batman fanatic whose favourite footballer is Maradona).
The premise was that a twenty-something guy in a shitty job sees his younger self on a bus one day, and is inspired to reclaim old ambitions and start writing stories again. He quits his job, and proposes to his girlfriend by turning their flat into a beach. Meanwhile, his younger self decides to become a private eye in order to write THE GREATEST STORY EVER and starts to follow the older David and his girlfriend to discover their secrets. Polarbear (real name Stephen, as I discovered when I stumbled over and unloaded verbal fawnings onto him after the show) played both characters, and I pretty much fell in love with him.
My new People To Marry list is now thus:
- Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
- Mike Phillips, scrum half for Wales
- Ross Sutherland (that other poet dude who did the thing about the Oulipo at Manchester Literature Festival)
- (Insert millionaire here)
While the bits with the older David made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and made me relate more completely to his rediscovery of writing, the bits as the kid were just hilarious. Hearing about scoring amazing goals with his new best mate and being allowed to watch Robocop (“where the guy’s melting and he’s going ‘help meeeee’!) and how a wall-clock is “the same colour as Caramac bars”. These parts, where a kid is watching grown-up stuff but not really understanding it, reminded me so much of Submarine by Joe Dunthorne, one of my favourite books ever. In that, a teenager monitors his parents’ sex life via the dimmer switch in their bedroom, much like Polarbear’s David, who follows his older self as he stares at rings in the window of a jewellers every lunchbreak. It’s so funny, and so endearing, and so, well, just lovely.
I’m so bloody soft.
But, as someone who spent her childhood writing and then discovered weed and boys and lost all motivation for a year or five (six? seven? eight?) before having it all slot back into place in her mid twenties, I found parts of the show more affecting than I imagine your average theatre-goer would, so the part where he explains he has a new idea at the Chinese restaurant reminded me so much of myself. You don’t want to be really boring and just go on and on about your BIG INSPIRATION and you don’t want to open yourself up to criticism before you’ve even started, but it’s so exciting that it’s all you want to talk about, and you just completely zone out of everything else, whether work or telly or bills or conversations with loved ones or sweet and sour pork.
Apparently, tonight was the last performance of If I Cover My Nose… for quite a while, hence the special aftershow stuff with the live art (by a guy called Goonism - where do they find these names?) and DJ and stuff in the bar afterwards. I have to get up super-early tomorrow morning, and I knew I wanted to write this, so I slunk off pretty quickly, but here’s a little picture of Goonism getting started on his canvas.
In fact, when we went into the theatre space, we were all given little programmes with a DVD featuring Goonism enclosed. They’d quoted from the show on the cover too; “Like Harrison Ford in Bladerunner, you don’t realise you’re a robot til you spend some time with the others”, so straight away I was all like ‘well, that’s another film ruined for us then…’ but then I remembered I’d already tried to watch Bladerunner and thought it was crap so it wasn’t really spoiling much.
I watched the Goonism DVD when I got home and it gives a much better impression of the collaboration between the two of them on the project. His artwork reminds me a bit of the Johnny Cigarettes comic strips that used to be at the back of Select magazine in the 90s, with Kula Shaker going on adventures to Shropshire pig farms and stuff. If I knew how to rip from a DVD then I’d be happy to cast aside any moral dilemmas in order to share it with you, but I’m so tired I’m struggling to even focus on the complicated ‘DVDx API MPG WTF’ instructions I’ve just googled. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s a very interesting insight into how one man’s street art has evolved, and how an illustrator uses source material.
Goodnight folks. (House-hunting trip to Leicester tomorrow. Odds are 5/2 for a bad mood by lunchtime.)
I’m going out to Contact tonight, to see this guy in a play about Batman featuring live graffiti:
He’s called Polarbear. I hope it’s not full of really trendy poetry types who know about dub music and can recognise street artists from the smell of their aerosols and stuff… I wish I had a wooly beanie hat to wear…
*out of depth*
This lack of internet is now officially my own bloody fault, rather than BT’s, as I’ve ummed and aahed about service providers like a proper Yorkshire miser. I’m sure not all people from Yorkshire are tight bastards, but whenever I’m on the penny-pinch, I feel the need to put on a pseudo-Rotherham accent.
Speaking of accents, I read my poems at Freed Up at Greenroom last night, the open mic poetry night that I wildly put my name down for about a month ago. My voice started off doing that erratic squeaky thing that comes with nerves, and by the end of the Glastonbury poem I was doing the boyfriend’s lines in another Yorkshire accent. I’ve obviously been sharing a house with Andy for far too long. People sseemed to like my poems. The Ringo Starr one even got a few laughs, and there were more experienced readers there who were, frankly, crap, so I’ve been bolstered a bit really. The theme for the next one (not till Feb) is “party”, and I’ve already got a fair few ideas.
On a separate subject, I saw Abi Willock on the way to work this morning. She went to my school and I’ve not seen her for at least six years. I also saw Briony Seed a couple of weeks ago, again while I was heading to work in the morning, although I’ve definitely seen her more recently than Abi. What’s funny is how we come to define ourselves by our jobs so quickly. In both cases, one of the first questions asked has been “what do you do?” I was reading on the Burning Man website that it’s really bad form to ask people about their working lives when you’re at the festival as it detracts from the sense of escapism. I would love to be the kind of person who didn’t care about a career, or rely upon work to provide a sense of self-esteem, but thinking about it, I am an ambitious person who would feel like a massive failure if I was working in recruitment or banking or something I felt was meaningless (as I have before - I even feel a bit of a failure just doing admin, even if it is in the arts) but I like to think that I ask these things of other people just because I have nothing else to talk about, rather than for any judgemental reasons, or for social climbing. It’s sad in a way, that we have so many shared experiences but nothing to talk about other than our jobs. Still, according to my horoscope, the Moon has left my opposite sign of Leo today (?) so any such disappointments will soon dry up. I’m heading to the Hedge third birthday party at the Carlton Club tonight, and Mum tells me The Travelling Band have thanked me in their sleevenotes, so it’s all good. :-)
I’m sure you’ve all been refreshing this page every six seconds since my post about Ross Sutherland earlier in the week, desperately hoping for a few lines of O-centric verse about mongs, toss, cows or Sloop John B by The Beach Boys. Please be advised that my univocalism for Ross was nothing but the basest of filth though, and I wouldn’t dare offend your sensibilities.
But I can exclusively reveal that Ross is quite the darling. Neither upset, offended, nor downright frightened by my ‘Cor, Ross Godly’ poem, he has sent a wee message of thanks via email:
“Gee Meg! Sweet text! Decent verse penned, yet less letters selected! These few resplendent sentences render my steel vest defenseless! Nerds revenge? Never! We, the well-dressed trendsetters represent rebel versemen, respected nevertheless. Cheers! X”
I pretty much need to be poured into a bucket right now.
I’ve seen Ross Sutherland perform before today. As part of Aisle 16 (the group of poets that also includes Joe Dunthorne, author of one of my favourite books, Submarine) and also as a compere at Latitude festival back in July. I swooned over him then too, especially when he started to lose his voice at the end of the night and went all husky.
This afternoon, he and Tim Clare (also from Aisle 16), were in Manchester to give a lecture as a joint endeavour between Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Science Festival. Because our council don’t appear to be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery, the Comedy Festival is also going on as we speak, and now there’ll be fuck all for months. But forget my sniping. Even without the kind of appearance that sends me giddy (it’s the hair I think - very public school hippy), Ross Sutherland gets me all of a-flutter because he’s damn talented. The lecture today was about univocalisms; poems that only use one vowel, and I’m now collecting words featuring O for my ‘Cor, Ross Godly’ tribute.
In other, poetry-related news, I felt so bolstered by the completion of yesterday’s nameless verse that I rang up the Greenroom and put my name down for an open mic slot. Strangely, my sphincter does not contract at the thought of reading my poetry aloud, which is worrying in itself, but this momentum has lead to the creation of yet another rambling, albeit not quite as amusing. The loose theme for the night is ‘Open’, so I’ve got back on my high horse about Ringo Starr…
Today is the twentieth of October
In the year two thousand and eight
I know that you said all mail would be tossed
If the postmark fell after this date
So I’ve booked a taxi to the sorting office
To make sure this letter won’t be late
I know that you have a lot to be doing
Eating tapas on your yacht in Marbella
Enjoying Swedish massage and avoiding the problems
That plague your former bass player.
But, dearest Ringo, I write not for me
But for my sweet darling, for my wife Freya.
Freya was crossing the road by the precinct
On a blustery day in September
Since then she’s not left the Royal Infirmary
When she wakes up she may not remember
Our baby son Sammy, or me, or your band,
And you were always her favourite member.
She always said that the best Beatles song
Was With A Little Help From My Friends
And we wallpapered Sammy’s nursery
With Thomas The Tank Engine And Friends
Dearest Ringo, send my Freya peace and love
Think of her, until her suffering ends.
I am five and I like coming to my new school
I don’t mind that we’re not allowed to chatter
Mrs McNulty is my favouritest teacher
And she says today we have to write a letter
Everyone else is writing to their mummys
But I’m writing to someone much better
Andrew Jackson didn’t believe me when I said
The voice on Thomas used to be a drummer
He’s a horrible boy who I hate
Although we used to be friends in the summer
Then he hid my coat in the sandpit
Daddy says I’m clever and he’s totally dumber
Last week in Dance and Movement we were fishes
And the song was Yellow Submarine
Mrs McNulty said I was a really good fish
She liked The Beatles when she was fifteen
Daddy says you don’t read any more letters
He’s wrong though, cos you’re not mean
You were my Mummy’s favourite when she was here
She died before I was two
Her picture is on my bedroom wall
But I’ve got Thomas wallpaper too
I hope you like my letter Ringo,
And I hope you write back to me too.
©Megan Vaughan, 2008