Wednesday, 28 September 2016

A Streetcar Named Desire at Manchester Royal Exchange

After a reading at Poetry Cafe - Refreshed in Cheltenham last Wednesday night, followed by a poetry brochure delivery run to Weston-Super-Mare after work on Thursday, Friday saw me driving up to Leeds to stay with my elder daughter, before heading across to Manchester the next day to see 'A Streetcar Named Desire' at the Royal Exchange.  

Saturday was also Labour Leadership Election Mark II day. This felt inauspicious for two reasons, for as my daughter reminded me, the day after the last General Election we had travelled together to Liverpool to see the Leonora Carrington exhibition, our only solace on a murky day when the sun didn't even rise. And the day after the disaster that was the EU Referendum, which has given rise to such a surge in hate crime, my partner and I had picked her up in Leeds and taken her to North Yorkshire for a few days' break.  Things come in threes, we decided. Were we going to be treated to another major political disappointment at the hands of a deeply undemocratic Labour Party, which had removed her and her siblings' right to vote - despite pocketing their money? 

Happily, the answer was No. And the play, starring another Corbyn supporter, Maxine Peake, as Blanche DuBois, was superb. I have to admit, I couldn't quite envisage the forthright, no nonsense Boltonian as the vulnerable yet manipulative mistress of self-delusion beforehand, but she embodied her brilliantly, a portrayal which was complemented by the rest of the excellent cast.   

Photograph: Manuel Harlan

But above all, I was struck by Tennessee Williams' gift for writing such fascinating, flawed and utterly believable characters, in works which address what we tend to think of as the most current of themes - poverty, sanity, sexism, class prejudice, racism, domestic violence, sexuality, grief. I left the theatre itching to revisit his plays, on page and stage. 








Saturday, 24 September 2016

Let Union Be In All Our Hearts

We went to Seend last weekend for a handfasting.  And a beautiful day it was too - one of the last blasts of summer, I suspect. 

The proceedings took place on Lye Field, off Rusty Lane, within spitting distance of the Kennet & Avon, upon which many of the guests, including the happy couple, live.  

There was a lovely view over to the honey-coloured spire of what, looking at the map, I suspect is the Church of St Nicholas at Bromham.  
Even the field mushrooms had their posh hats on. 


Not that it was that sort of event. The dress code was princess or pirate, and most of the guests, unsurprisingly, had opted for the latter. 



What princesses there were seemed to be running around brandishing swords, which was gratifying.

In fact, it was wonderful, all of it. 





Back at the edge of the field, I was intrigued by a configuration of the hills nearby. Their shape reminded me of the hills at Cherwill, where one of the white horses is. In fact, several of them seem to be in - or on - a curved line of hills. 

'That's Roundway Hill, ' Dru said when I told her, 'The new Devizes chalk horse is just along and round the corner. It replaces the lost one ... which was on Roundway Hill.'  

So ... yeah. 





Thursday, 22 September 2016

Uphill Equinox

Driving through rush hour traffic to deliver  Bristol Poetry Festival brochures to Weston library after a hard day's work can have its compensations.








I could have done without the dog getting down and dirty in the mud ... but he wouldn't be Ted and Weston wouldn't be Weston without it.


Happy Autumnal Equinox




Sunday, 18 September 2016

September Readings in Cheltenham and Bradford on Avon

I have two readings coming up between now and the end of the month, at Poetry Cafe - Refreshed in Cheltenham and Words and Ears in Bradford-on-Avon. It would be good to see you there if you can make it. 



Friday, 16 September 2016

Bristol Poetry Festival 2016


Bristol Poetry Festival 2016 is nigh.

There's an electronic brochure - with turnable pages an' all - here on the Poetry Can website.

I'm honoured to be reading alongside Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales, and Niall Campbell at 7.30pm on Tuesday 11th October, at the Mackay Theatre, Bristol Grammar School, Woodland Road, Bristol BS8 1SR. 

Information re booking can be found on the Poetry Can website.  

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Crime and Punishment in Stoke St Gregory

Off to North Curry with the parents again today, to meet up with my father's sister.  After lunch we headed for Stoke St Gregory and its eponymous church, which, although I've walked from the village before, I'd never visited. 


 



The information sheet about the Church has this to say: 'The general impression on entering the church is of light and space'. In fact, the church seems devoid of much of its history. We learn from the same sheet that there was a 'restoration' in 1888, so maybe the Victorians finished the process that started with Henry VIII and Edward VI and was continued by Cromwell's men.

There's a fine Jacobean pulpit, however, with carvings of Faith, Hope, Charity, Time and either the Virgin and Child or the Archangel with the soul of Adam.  


I like Time best.  


There were also several carvings on an adjacent screen of a women watering flowers with a watering can, topped by a quartet of rather prim looking angels, but no information about it on the guide sheet. 



I've since found mention of it online, where it says that until the 1960s, the carvings were part of a cupboard and of secular origin.  
Still in place were a couple of impressive 17th century memorials to members of the Court family ... 
... a mid-14th century font, and Elizabethan bench ends. 
But that's about it, really.
Oh, but what's this outside?
Why, it's the stocks under the yew tree opposite the porch. They date from the 17th century, and were 'used by the churchwardens as punishment for offenders at church services.' There's space for three sets of buttocks. 
These miscreants decided it was a pillory. Either way it was the best place for them.  








Sunday, 4 September 2016

St Audries in early Autumn

The last time I went to St Audries Bay on the Somerset coast, it rained and rained and little pup Ted paid rather too much interest to a stinky dogfish he found on the beach. 

Today it was overcast but dry.

Well, maybe not entirely, as its celebrated waterfall was still falling as it has done every moment of every day in the meantime.


But you didn't have to get wet unless you chose to. 
St Audries - also known as West Quantoxhead - has a knack of being so monochrome that you could (almost) think you'd taken black and white photos ...
... except for where its several waterfalls of varying size pour down onto the beach and colour explodes over the cliffs.

No, that's not entirely true, some of the cliffs are striking in their own right ...

... though I love the bleakness of this part of the Somerset coast, and - today, at least - its ravens flying overhead. This is looking west towards Minehead. 
You could spend a long time wondering what the worms are trying to communicate with their byzantine lettering ...
... though I think the fossils are mostly saying 'I was here'. 

This is the fossilised skull of a great elk, of course.   
I'd like to think that if there could be a message, it would be one of love. 

Which is all very well but we were in need of a brew so we headed for Kilve Chantry, just up the coast, and its wonderful cream teas. Yum.