How do I fit it all in? I’ve been meeting myself coming round bends this last two weeks.
Firstly, the birds. A pair of Great Tits started to build in my nest box at the end of April. On May 8th the first egg appeared followed by one a day until there were 5 beautiful eggs in the nest. The nesting box is linked to the television in the conservatory by a wireless camera so I have been watching them closely. On Wednesday my surveillance was rewarded when the first hatchling appeared. By Friday we had five chicks. They are pink and almost hairless, just a bit of fuzz making them look like alopecia sufferers. The mother is tending them very carefully, feeding them big, fat, white grub. When she comes home with food they stretch their necks and open those beaks like perfect letter Os to be filled. There is something disturbing about so many beaks and only one grub, but she seems to know what she’s doing. How does she not suffocate them when she sits on them between meals? The male bird brings her grubs sometimes, but as far as I can tell, she does most of the foraging and feeding. I love watching them, watch them for hours. It beats daytime TV; but then pulling your own teeth out with rusty pliers beats daytime TV!
Secondly, poetry. There’s been a lot of it lately, as ever. On May 11th I went to a workshop at the Lancashire Archive, using the archive records as stimulus for writing. Fantastic day! I found a leaflet dated 1832, a time of electoral unrest in England. This was a satirical document decrying the Tory party for their resistance to the Reform Act, advertising for a Tory candidate for Clitheroe. As I read it, it seemed to me that much of the content of that poster was still relevant today and I thought, today that would be a Facebook stream. So that’s how I have rewritten it. My favourite lines in the whole document: will give to those who reap not; to the reapers, starvation and none need apply whose loaf is not thoroughly baked. Well, plus ca change…I took it to the alumni workshop at MMU on Tuesday and they liked it. It works well on the page, but would be difficult to take to a reading without a couple of friends to help with the delivery.
On Tuesday afternoon I had a meeting with fellow members of the Saddleworth Writers Group. We meet on the first Wednesday of the month, 2.00-4.00 at Uppermill library. We have decided to put together an anthology of our writing ready for launch at the Saddlworth Festival 2015. I came away from there, as did we all, with plenty of jobs to do. Oldham libraries seem to think we can go for publication by September. Are they mad? I’ve heard of tight deadlines, but that is insomnia, I mean insane!
On Friday I took my poem ‘Whit Friday’ to read on Tameside Radio. This was a very apposite choice as it was Whit Friday. The poem is about the Saddleworth Band Contests, which were the subject of the film ‘Brassed Off’. It’s a fantastic event, lots of ale and music. I was relieved to get home before the roads closed: Saddleworth is a bit of a shut down on Whit Friday. The bands were still playing up until midnight. Thankfully, the weather cleared from the awful rain and winds we had in the morning.
And lastly: spring cleaning! I’ve been attacking my kitchen cupboards with a vengeance this week. What a fantastic invention is the dishwasher. I would get rid of my partner before I gave up my dishwasher and it certainly came into its own this week.
Must go: I have a few more cupboards to finish. I’ll sign off with my Whit Friday poem. Enjoy!
They march along in haphazard platoons,
these happy militias, loud and proud
in blue uniforms with red lapels, festooned
with gold braid. Passing the beer slaked crowd
they march in step, as far as their twisted brass
will allow, setting their feet down to the sound
of the drummer beating the steady bass
of a Sousa tune. The revellers mill around
the edge like butterflies about a buddleia,
with glazed eyes, cheering their favourite bands,
their voices oiled by Theakston’s. The biggest cheer
is for a tuba player who can’t free up her hands
to catch her wind-blown score. One player,
a Lothario in his youth, holds his euphonium
as he used to hold a woman, as if a prayer
were in his arms around her curves and some
erotic spell in his fingers playing at her valves.
His lips blow promises into her throat, his tongue
moistens her mouthpiece like a tender salve.
Her horny brass bell laughs as they march along.
The cornets triple-tongue till tongues are sore
and trombones seem bright fingerposts to heaven
as ale and music flows over Saddleworth Moor
like the Holy Ghost, like a Pentecostal blessing.