Sunday, 2 December 2007

Chewing Gum targets, a festival of light and Dannie Abse

I am recovering from the virus creeping round the fens that involves much vomiting and pounding of the head ( think really bad hangover without the aid of alcohol). In the olden days of yester yore Fen ague was a known phenomenon, in fact many died of malaria in the past. I suspect anything that caused a temperature and shivering was labelled Fen ague much as TB was a label given to anything that involved paleness and coughing. A label for an ailment is comforting in fact simply a number or barcode would give the average suffering punter something definite to hang onto in the shivering hours. The R48 Virus sounds much more special, more worthy of sympathy that an indefinite ‘a virus’…even plague had a definite ‘the’ placed in front of it to lift it above common or garden plague.

After being shut in the house I decided I should get some fresh air and decided to share my virus with the good townsfolk of the small market town where I live. There was a cheery Dickensian themed Christmas fair today to celebrate the switching on of the town Christmas lights. Don’t think Blackpool, don’t think well known celebrity from 'I used to have a face that you thought you remembered from an episode of The Bill Get Me Out of Here' shipped in to pull the switch, think more along the lines of one largish Christmas tree and the market square decked out in a few stars hanging above the new boards that have appeared tied to lamp posts saying ‘Stick Your Gum Here’. These boards are a new phenomenon placed at eye level they provide a window into the world of chewed gum. The aim of course is to stop people spitting their gum out on the street where, OAP’s, small children and unlucky dogs can end up being glued to the pavement on a stretchy string of chewing gum. However the sight of the chewed remains of someone’s gum stuck to these small boards , decorated to look like targets is very off putting, particularly when you still feel a little queasy. I suppose some bright environmental type person thought that making the boards look like archery targets would encourage the local gum chewing fraternity to practise spitting out their gum in order to get a bulls eye. Of course anyone walking innocently along whilst this new sport is in progress may risk gum in the eye or hair.

I once had someone spit chewing gum onto my hair from the balcony of a cinema. It is difficult to get out, someone advised me at the time that you could get gum off clothes by putting them in the fridge she did not seem to think this advise was pretty useless in my circumstances, unless of course she thought I was up for sticking my head in the fridge overnight. In the end I had to cut it out which left me with a rather Toni and Guy, bed head hair cut pre the era when hair was teased and waxed and gelled into looking precisely unkempt.

Anyway, I’m going off piste again, the ‘place your gum here boards’ seemed to be populated with a variety of masticated gum this morning as I trudged round the Dickensian market. Dickensian seemed to mean some ladies behind stalls making the effort to wear a simulated poke bonnet and cloak. Despite the poor weather, people arrived in droves and I was again reminded that small towns can be a joyous place to live in. I was greeted at least every ten steps by someone I knew, families with small children danced to the steel band up on the hastily prepared stage. Children were genuinely excited about the Christmas tree and the lights and I slapped myself across the wrist for being so churlish about their sparseness. I have been reading some Dannie Abse poems recently and one on particular, reminds me to celebrate those brief and passing things. The last two stanzas of his poem O Taste and See go

Toast all that which seems to vanish
like a rainbow stared at, those bright
truant things that will not keep;

and ignorance of the last night
of our lives, its famished breathing.
Then in the red wine taste the light.

A sense of community is a precious and worthwhile thing to foster. Santa arriving on a boat up the river while local people laugh and cheer as the local brass band plays Winter Wonderland is one of those warm fuzzy moments of community or perhaps it’s a seasonal affected disorder that is making me so sentimental or maybe the indefinite virus hanging on round the edges of me. I did not try the mulled red wine on offer but I did try and taste the light, if nothing else.

The town lights are not as spectacular as these at Jo’s Garage but they suffice to make life a tad cheerier.

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