Sunday, 11 March 2007

Larkin and Cuprinol Amazons

Yesterday, I removed the wellies; the most suitable footwear for pegging out the washing in a low lying fen area in which there has been much rain and made a sortie into Cambridge to collect the Boo (Beloved Only Offspring) from the train station. Cambridge is an odd city, a constant buzz of tourists that rises to a crescendo of camera clicking and thudding of colliding punt poles in the summer months punctuated in short bursts with the chatter of bright-eyed bushy tailed students. Added to that is the trickle of Fen folk visiting to stare and tut at the exorbitant price of spuds on the market and the odd passing crusty dreadlock. The silicon fen tribe and the human genome shamans also thread their way through this rich tapestry of life. They clutch their lap tops and swipe cards as they hurry to laboratories where the future of mankind is contained behind a door that has a code encrypted from their favourite character in Lord of the Rings.Stephen Hawkins has been known to weave his way along the pavement.
After re-reading that paragraph I need to stop and strike that image of students with bushy tails from my mind, too shudderingly squirrel related; although the odd student does have some potential for aggression, especially the girls, when tanked up on cheap college beer and blue cocktails. None have, as yet, attempted to bite me on the foot, but that may be because if they bent down they would fall over.
The Boo having lived and worked in the rougher areas of Hull whilst a student, informs me that the average female Cambridge student could not hold a candle let alone a can of Carlsberg Special Brew to a local Hull girl. These girls can wear tiny skirts, no tights, high heels and backless halter necks without a coat or a goose bump to protect them on a Saturday night out in sub zero temperatures. They can gut you with a glance and bone you with a flick of their eyeliner pencil. She tells me this with a measure of pride and respect for them. She believes they are born weatherproofed and tough. It was voted the crappiest town in England to live in and yet they come back fighting; you don’t mess with a Hull woman.
I wonder whether the poet Phillip Larkin, who was the librarian at Hull University for many years, ever messed or fantasised about Hull woman. Given the extent of his bursts of deep misogyny he may have been wise enough not to tangle with the local women, they would have made fish paste out of him. I think all of the women who supported and complicated his life where incomers; they were not bred within a short sniff of a trawler or a fish dock. The area around the University is actually suburbia with Methodist and Congregationalist Chapels on corners of mock French Boulevards and there is the odd tree. However sometimes he must have caught the bus clutching his umbrella and travelled through the dark interiors of Hull where the Cuprinol Amazons walked the streets pushing their sturdy babies in heavyweight pushchairs. I think Larkin and Hull may have suited each other; a cynical almost weary acceptance of how things are but a sense of fighting back, if only by the use of words and language.Hull women can be articulate and know about strategic use of language.
The Boo used to work in Boozebusters (a poetic gift of a coupling of person and place) in an area of Hull where cars are stolen and burnt by boys barely big enough to reach the pedals. She had her share of men buying £2.99 wine and a can of larger for his dog on a rope. It is tough there but life goes on, the postmen always deliver but sometimes in pairs in case they are mugged and the doctors on call out have police protection.

‘Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house’

The last two lines of Aubade Larkin’s last published poem prior to his death.

Larkin I feel would have been comfortable wandering in there to buy a bottle of something cheering at the end of a hard day in the book stacks juggling his women.

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