Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The killing fields in the corner shop and East Coker

Apologies for the gap in posting I have been up to my eyes, and it is along way up to my eyes, in novel rewrites, birthday joy and general work stuff.

I ran out of sugar the other night and went up to my local corner shop which has been run by Mr Fazel for years. I used to pop out for milk late at night and Mr Fazel would be there behind the counter listening to the cricket on a tiny radio. A few years later I pop out for bread late at night and there is Mr Fazel’s son on his stool behind the counter watching cricket on a small portable TV perched in the corner. So this week, a few years later I pop out for a bag of sugar and there is Mr Fazel’s teenage grandson behind the counter busy playing some X box Game that seems to involve being dressed in army combat gear and creeping round in alleys shooting other people creeping round in alleys in combat gear. He can manage to serve me,talk and give me the correct change whilst still avoiding death in a dark alley. I ask him if he gets killed a lot. “No I’m good at this, I kill more people than I get killed but I'm useless at the cricket game Granddad got me." I am relieved to know he plays cricket now and then, albeit virtually.

It must be a sign of the changing times, radio, to TV to X Box.
I haven’t fathomed the Wii yet, I had a go at a friend’s and it was a disaster, I flailed around at a game of tennis and seemed to hit only air which in fact is exactly what I was doing. I was quite good at tennis once, there are some advantages in height. There is something about Wii tennis that makes me feel vulnerable and not just stupid. It is like a man who is trekking across the desert who has a mirage of an oasis and throws themselves at his own delusion, running sand through their fingers as if it were water. I am the desert tennis player thrashing at air imaging the thwack, the feel of it but never quite gaining satisfaction. perhaps I should try the Wii bowling, I may be better at hurling than thwacking.

Mr Fazel’s grandson, who I have seen grow up from a baby, is better at offing virtual people with an Uzi than spin bowling.

I don’t know why but I keep thinking of a few lines in East Coker by T.S Eliot

There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter

Of course mine is some sort of feeling about small history as opposed to big history, the passage of time for a family sitting behind the counter in a corner shop, the passage of small time as I observe the family behind the counter in the corner shop. Who knows why but it just made me sad to see the little corner shop come to the killing fields. As the two famous lines from that poem go

In my beginning is my end.
In my end is my beginning.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Dennis O'Driscoll and Reading Naked at Aldeburgh

I was at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival last week-end, I treated myself to a room in a hotel right on the shoreline and felt the joy of literally being a stones throw from a sea that rang the changes during the week-end from sun-kissed bright and calm to churning grey waves. Aldeburgh is still in that time warp when you expect to see women wearing fifties clothes and then suddenly there they are because retro is all the rage.

Some good readings but Dennis O’Driscoll was one of the highlights for me, understated yet beautifully crafted and assured. His lecture on the political side of his friend’s Seamus Heaney’s work also showed a perceptive grasp of what is important and to be remembered about Heany’s ‘public voice’ on the Irish troubles. Here are a couple of his poems, just to give you a flavour of O’ Driscoll’s work: Someone and Weather Permitting.

Bob, a regular off beat ‘act’ at the Open Mike took his clothes off and pretended to play a flute whilst wearing a Queen ( Elizabeth not Mercury ) mask. Someone read his poem as he did so. I have to admit I wasn’t listening very closely to the poem as I was more interested in the reaction of ladies behind me who were rather thrown at seeing a man naked, apart from a small posing pouch, during a Sunday Lunch time in a posh Suffolk seaside hotel. A skinny older man in a posing pouch is unexpected but somehow not entirely shocking, the price of a soft drink there knocked me back more. A man to my right was unsure what to do and quietly ate his slice of pizza staring straight ahead, his eyes staying firmly at nipple height. Someone took a lot of photographs as I could hear the shutter cranking like a woodpecker. Bob takes his clothes off and performs in a variety of places, here and abroad, at least The White Lion is well heated. Poets are a little naked emotionally at the best of times so I suppose literally being naked is just a notch up the continuum although I hope naked male poetry doesn’t catch on as there are quite a few poets I would find difficult to listen to naked, in fact I am racking my brains as to who would make a pleasing naked poet whose poems would be enhanced by a naked delivery. Perhaps someone may come up with the Naked Male Poet Calendar for charity. I suppose there would be the odd contender for Mr May or November. Suggestions on a postcard to The Society for Distressed and Unread Poets.