At the weekend I went to Bradford.

Leaving the station I was surprised to hear the cathedral bells ringing. 'I wonder what can be the cause,' I thought. And then I noticed the reason for the pealing bells.... work had finally begun to put a roof on the world's largest swimming pool.

My reason for going to Bradford was to take the kids to the Media Museum. As a museum it has serious limitations, not least because the exhibits hardly ever change, but the kids enjoy it - and the Darlek - and I have always rather enjoyed the photography exhibitions... which do occasionally change.

The current exhibition is called Only in England, and features the work of Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr.

I enjoyed the pictures, Martin Parr rather more than Tony Ray Jones - who for me was rather more interested in finding and recording the grotesque. And though Ray Jones had probably twice as many pictures as Parr, there were only maybe two or three that provoked more than a second look. The stand out piece being the picture of the mod girl on Brighton beach, with a portable turntable.

Whereas I found Parr's pictures far more interesting.

I was particularly struck by the a set of trestles laid out for a street party for the Queen's jubilee and in the background are puddles of sheeting rain.

But there were others that are worthy of merit - the three ladies going to church with the cow, the people at the buffet table for the inauguration of mayor of Todmorden (particularly the way in captures each individuals attitude to food, the woman eyeing the pork pie was very good) and the entrants at the best mouse content.

When I had finished being a grumpy parent - quite why children of 6 and 3 should be interested in images of a by-gone world that are displayed two feet above their heads, I'm not sure... not that it stopped me going into slightly insane parent mode - I got to thinking about the differences between visual and written arts.

Although people often talk about layers, and such, in poetry the reality is that the perspective of the point of view very rarely leads to much beyond the surface.

For instance the street party picture.

One might describe the sodden tables, the spoiled food, the flapping table clothes, and then lead the reader into the puddles in the mid-ground, but it is very rare to carry on to the waste ground beyond and the sky. And if an attempt is made, it all too often becomes laden with fake political statements. Because Parr is making a statement about poverty, one only needs to look the houses, the food, cinder tracks, the dark rough grass. And, given that this occurs in the 1970's there are all kinds of memes and tropes that could be be woven into this scene - very few of which would have much relevance in what is essentially a representation of community spirit.

And obviously a poem, or a piece of prose, would not have the instant impact, and the accidental touches, that make a photograph so interesting.

The exhibition is well worth a visit if you are in the Bradford area.

My only regret is that I didn't get my dates sorted out in advance because they were having a widescreen film festival and I really want to see This is Cinerama - though clearly not badly enough to make the simplest of arrangements.

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I went to the Beehive last night.

It was a decent session.

The new guy, who I think is called Kev, was apparently talking about my stillbirth poem all of last week to anyone who would listen... which was nice. I read Dusk, which seemed to go down well.

I scribbled a few bits and pieces on the train...

behind the square lit windows
the evening settles in
kids in bed telle on
cups of tea lemonade and gin


how melancholy sit the leafless trees
as grey ducky sky descends


in the half dark ventian blinded light
she sits down at the computer to write
an email to explain put right last night


spartan sky lingers on the moor

Though in truth the sketching I did on the train was more on the Nazi police thing.

It's somewhat of an oddity of the internet that although it offers a world of knowledge - in theory - in practice unless you are hyper careful in your search terms, it gives you the sort of information that can be gleaned in your average pub.

For instance I wanted to find out about the structure of the German legal system. I got some information and ideas from watching a film about the trial of Adolf Hitler. The actual information required was titles, offices, and responsibilities - i.e facts.

Instead I got pages of search results offering useless information telling me the Nazis were unpleasant types, endless stuff about the racial laws, Jews and Crytsal Nacht, bits and pieces on that ranting judge, and not much that was of any use to anyone not looking to cut and paste stuff into a GCSE essay. Not that I am dismissing any of this. But it is rather like asking what the weather is like in Nebraska and being told about the massacre of the Indians, the US prison population and how unpleasant US foreign policy is. It's lacks relevance.

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I went to the first meeting of the #Ilkley Writers group a couple of weeks ago.

The 'homework' for the next meeting was to write a piece about finding something in a person's pocket.

No sniggering at the back.

I've been mulling over what I should write since. The obvious thing would be to write a poem. But, I have been working on various prose pieces, and thought it might be a useful incentive to write a fiction piece.

Like many creative things the story came about by a circuitous route. Regular readers will know I am currently reading Hitler's Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang by Jillian Becker. In fact I have been reading a number of things about Germany in WWII. And, I find my preconceptions being rather challenged. For instance, one of the books I have been reading was about the Hitlerjugend in Normandy. All, or most, of whom were in the Hitler Youth, which conjures up images of swinging Indian Clubs and marching about. However according to this first hand account, far from the Hitler Youth being like the Scouts, it was more akin tot he Woodland Folk. And indeed Becker makes the same comparison.

Here is the poem that came out of my reflections on this....

Sabina finds me reading Rilke,
in the lower meadow by the stream.
Again and again I have come here
to paint the little Luthern chapel
but I cannot catch the light.

She brings her mother's regards
and a small cake, which she cuts
with my pocket knife. Stabbing
the crumbs with our finger tips
we read Autumn Day, on the rug,

our bodies almost touching.
The paper curls in the breeze
pinned by the smudged and bloodied
watercolours, in their wooden box.
The water jar sits safe in my shoe.

Angels in the churchyard
turn their backs, as naked
we splash and prance in the stream.
The sunlight runs like spring rain
upon our bodies. But we are not children.

No one is young. For high above,
silver geese fly in formation,
heading south; their reflection
obscured by the brilliance
of our glistening laughter.

So anyway, here is the 300 word story...

“Ah the poet,” exclaimed Inspector Meyer, “we meet again and again.”
“And again and again you make the same joke,” replied Vesper dryly. He checked the oak lined corridor before closing the door. “It’s about the Schaub case. There’s something you need to know.”
Meyer pushed the rape file, he was working on, to one side. He indicated Vesper to sit. The young sergeant did so, peering at his superior through the thick lenses of his glasses. “Schaub?” began Meyer, recapping the case from memory,  “Schaub, male, 42, found floating the river last week. The doctor says he was in the water for approximately ten days. The neighbours report he had been drinking heavily following the death of his son at… uh?... did we ever establish were the son was killed?”
“No sir.”
“The wife and daughter killed by a stray bomb. He was heard expressing defeatist opinions on the night he died. A witness reports that he may have been  fighting with two men on the Fliesch bridge. The case remains open, but we are not actively investigating. Have I missed anything?”
“This,” said Vesper, pushing a crumpled identity card across the desk.
Meyer took it, opened it, and pouted at the insignificance. “It’s Herr Schaub’s identity card, what of it?”
“It’s the stamp sir.” Meyer looked more closely. “The stamp was only issued two days ago, which makes me wonder how it could be found in Herr Schaub’s jacket pocket.”
Meyer laid the identity card on the desk before him, gently running his figures across the smudged and blistered cardboard. “Herr Schaub was a farmer? Was he not? And a farmer must be able to predict the weather if he is to make money.”
“I don’t think it was suicide sir. In fact I know it wasn’t. There’s something else.”

Which has got me thinking of ways in which this might be expanded.




Last night was an evening of #poetry with the Beehive Poets.

Well it was half an evening of poetry, and half annual general meeting. The details of the meeting don't need to be gone into. The read around was rather interesting because it was a kind of speed reading event, with everyone reading their poem without discussion. It's perhaps not something I'd like to do every week but it did mean that we got through a lot of material, and perhaps heard work that we might not otherwise have.

Christine read a very interesting poem about Goebbels children. Not a subject that gets discussed often, and certainly not one that is given the humane treatment that she gave it. There was a new bloke there who did a most curious piece of performance art. His poem was about how only women and poofters dance - or so his father told him. As a poem it was ok. The curious aspect was that it was written across numerous bits of paper, that appeared to be unconnected with each other - bits of one stanza were on the same piece of paper of bits of another stanza, without seeming rhyme nor reason, Which had me wondering about the process. But regardless, his delivery was strong, and there was entertainment value in watching the poem literally unfold. Steve read a rather good poem about horses and colours and a city - that in terms of sense may have benefited from discussion, but was an aural treat, and rather sensuous. Kevin did a couple of his atonal spikey pieces which is always a treat. John gave a couple of nicely observed vignettes. Frank gave us a lyrical piece that had apparently once made John Hegley cheer.

I had rather too much Mordue Workie Ticket, and offered Remembrance and the Tryptich. In truth I was rather pleased to read both of these without discussion. And it took my best cynical Mockney persona to get through Remembrance without blubbing.

Instead of writing nonsense, I decided to flex my mental muscles by writing sketches of what I saw n the train journey journey....

and again the square windows, lit for tea
slip past with brakes release, into the country
of back yards, bicycles, bar-b-ques, love seats
which in summer soak all work's stress.


swaying in our seats the familiar


the familiar robotic intones
plays out, then pips and beeps, doors close.


the cows like cricketers
stand ready

heads down
waiting for the bowlers arm


under the steady gaze of the church clock
cows stand ready, heads down
for the bowlers arm to turn once more.


tunnel embankment, embankment tunnel


black mud road
through the green wall


a thwack, follow through
stand and walk on
trolley behind
still a fair way from the green


last years sycamore pods
hang like foreskins


a dead swan
waits on the canal

for sale signs litter
the new built flats


Guisley enters in grey slippers
from the cow pastures


It remains to be seen if these lead to anything.

I did see a deer, which poetically speaking should be inspiring, at the time I was thinking about the disorderly order of the the countryside between Ilkley and Burley - stands of ungrown trees in plastic rabbit proof sleeves, the sloping land bisected by triangles of bushes, field boundaries, paths, etc. Oh and there was a hovering bird of prey, and six crows flying in antagonistic formation in the grey and misty sky.

Cue random picture for the facebooks seasoning...

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