I'm going away for a few days - a temporary respite from this darkest of dark English Januarys: getting me some winter sun. Passport? Check. Tickets? Check. Taxi? On its way. Play nicely while I'm gone, won't you? And if somebody could kindly put the bins out that would be fabulous. Ta. James has sent me a collaborative playlist he's in the middle of compiling. It's called Young Soul and is, essentially, an evolving mixtape comprising soul interpretations of Neil Young songs. I added this one yesterday (I'll more than likely find a few more over the next seven days & seven nights), here it is:
From D.H. Lawrence to Alan Sillitoe, John Harvey to the Sleaford Mods, the fair city of Nottingham - my home on and off (more on than off) for the last 35 years - has produced a wealth of writers whose genius is recognised way beyond the county border. That's right, even as far as Derby...and beyond.
And that (very) long list of extraordinarily gifted writers with an NG postcode is growing all the time: I wrote about (or should I say abaht) one of Nottingham's up and coming young writers when I saw her perform last year at a poetry workshop. An event - a festival, even - that she had helped both organise and host. Georgina Wilding is an amazing raw talent, a writer who, even for one so young, is steeped in everything both culturally and artistically that makes Nottingham the greatest city, I think, in the country; though I may be biased!
Georgina very kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the blog, and for that I can't thank her enough.
When did you first realise you could write poetry?
I think I was 20. I’d just dropped out of a Forensic Science degree at Liverpool John Moores University wishing I’d pursued English after a love of creative writing followed me all my life. I’d moved back to Nottingham and got lucky discovering a poetry collective called the Mouthy Poets. Of course, I immediately fell in love. It was the perfect mix of rules and art and rule breaking. After a year or so in the group, I decided to apply to Nottingham University’s Creative and Professional Writing course to further my poetic education, and upon arrival I finally felt like I’d found ‘it’, you know, the thing that sets you off. Saying that, I visited my Grandma recently and she’d found a scrap of old wallpaper I’d written a poem on at about 5 or 6 years old so, maybe I was ‘a poet and didn’t know it’ for a long time before it came into my consciousness.
Your job often takes you out of the country - does your writing style change depending on your location?
I haven’t found that to be true, not yet anyway. For me, travelling really opens up WHAT you write about, and makes you explore yourself through the medium of something new. Travelling with my poetry has been a real source of growth for me personally because of this. For example, in Krakow last year I discovered the most mind blowing botanical gardens; they had ladders and platforms in a tonne of their greenhouses that let you get right up into the tropical canopies. Whilst up there it felt like I’d taken breathing for granted until then, and I had this weird sense of awakening and power that had me in a writing daze crossed between a forest nymph and a Disney Villain. That’s stayed with me, and I’m really enjoying using that lens as a tool to look at life and write.
I’m guessing you get homesick when you’re away; describe Nottingham in three words.
A patchwork city.
Here's Georgina on the BBC a couple of years ago talking about her love of Nottingham's Goose Fair:
Just how big a deal was it when you were made the city’s first young Poet Laureate?
Honestly, even I struggle to compute how I survived that winning call from Sandeep Mahal. I could not believe it. It’s probably the proudest moment of my career to date, and it has changed my life in more ways than I could have ever guessed. That title has opened so many doors for me, in both my professional and personal life, and I’ve seen so much more than I think I would have done without it. It’s hard to express, really. All I can say is "thank you, thank you, thank you" to the forces that made it be.
Who are your poetry heroes and heroines?
I’ve been so lucky to be mentored by the likes of Caroline Bird, Andrew McMillan and Roger Robinson. Their work makes me want to fight; for poetry, to write stronger poems personally, and to get every single person reading their stuff and seeing the world through their eyes, even if just for the length of a poem.
As well as those, I love to read Sharon Olds, Kate Clanchy, Mona Arshi, Fatimah Asghar, Norman McCaig, Sean Hewitt…the list goes on and on, but if you can read a sample from all of the above I’d bet you my favourite boots that you’ll fall in love with at least one of them.
Do you buy into the ‘songs are just poems with music’ i.e. when people talk about Bob Dylan? Or are song lyrics and poetry two parallel lines that never meet?
I think in its simplest form, yes, maybe. The thing I love about poetry is that it doesn’t have to have a beginning, middle, or end. It’s really more like photography to me; it’s a snapshot of a moment or a feeling that doesn’t have to come full circle, or to some extent, even make rational sense. It’s about moving people, allowing space for their interpretation of the world as you’ve seen it in that poem.
Tell me about Mud Press (Georgina's own compact and bijou publishing house)
Ah, Mud Press, my little love. In 2015 I graduated from uni and decided I’d set up a poetry publishing house to provide a print platform for todays contemporary writers. It’s been such a joy to run, but since I got the poet laureate role Mud has been on a bit of an informal hiatus as it’s just me running the show. I do all the social media, set all the competitions and read all the entries, format all the books and do all the taxes and admin and… it’s a lot. So, when I took on the laureate role as well as my freelance Learning Design (to keep the wolves from the door) I just couldn’t manage publishing as well. However, that said, there are plans for a few small publications to come out in 2020, and in 2021, I’m hoping to get some funding together to acquire a small team and really get that publishing engine going again.
And finally… Curry or pizza?
Curry all day every day - especially from Tamatanga!
Beer or wine?
Beer, all the beer! (Wine sometimes.)
Party animal, or stay in with friends? I’m both! Though life these days definitely sees me in with friends more so than out - the hangovers are coming to get me.
Upstairs on the bus, or down? Upstairs. And, if I'm lucky, right at the front!
Brown sauce or ketchup? Brown for sausage cobs (yes, COBS, none of this ‘roll’ malarky) and red for nuggets!
Subtlety is not heavy metal's default position; never has been - neither in its musical output or, indeed, its cover art. When UK hopefuls UFO approached Hipgnosis in 1975 for sleeve ideas for their new album it was the firm's crack design team, led by Storm Thorgerson, that came up with the initial idea. Thorgerson and co. then proceeded to absolutely throw the kitchen bathroom sink at it. Literally. The band wanted to call the album Force It, so Hipgnosis gave them taps (geddit?), and lots of them.
In the UK it was released as the band intended. Sexual politics aside, it's a non gender specific couple seemingly getting it on in the bath. But the Americans wouldn't stand for such shenanigans. On its initial release in the US the offending protagonists were airbrushed out totally (with a shedload more taps added) and then subsequently replaced by the band's guitarist Michael Schenker (though not, unfortunately, in the bath).
1n 1977 Ian Dury and Graham Parker were on fire. Conveniently, both had the punk tag loosely attached to them - more for their attitude than their music it has to be said - and both used it as a launch pad to grow still further their fan base. And the pair had the foresight to employ graphics wizz Barney Bubbles to help sell their wares - his artwork and designs (remember the Blockheads logo, that was Bubbles) were integral to the punk and new wave scene and could be seen strewn all over the music press, on swathes of record sleeves, and, indeed, anywhere frequented by Bill Stickers.
"But there's only four of us" said Reginald Dwight to his pay masters at Hallmark Records when they asked him to cover the England 1970 Mexico World Cup tub thumping anthem Back Home. That's right, the future Elton John and his then band couldn't even muster a 5-a-side team, let alone the 22 man squad who sang (mostly in tune) the football anthem to end all football anthems.
All things considered, I think Elton makes a decent fist of it. Oo-er missus.
Not since the days of Barry Norman have I paid a great deal of attention to film critics; oh, don't get me wrong, many of them can (and do) steer us away from turkeys, but, at the end of the day, a movie is only ever as good as *you* think it is. Nobody else's opinion counts. Nobody's. Far too many scribes walk into movie theatres with so much baggage you'll often be wading through their 2,000 word review and not start reading about the actual film till you're two thirds of the way into it.
I went to see The Gentlemen on Saturday. For those of you who don't know The Gentlemen, it's a modern day British gangster movie, and it's written & directed by Guy Ritchie. So, contained in that last sentence alone is enough information to alienate at least 50% of broadcasters, journos, hacks and bloggers who will probably dismiss this frenetic 113 minute caper with not so much as a backward glance. Critics, eh?
For what it's worth, I absolutely adored it. The script was fizzing, the storyline both clever and compelling, and the casting of Hugh Grant as a grubby tabloid reporter was a masterstroke. Consign to the rubbish bin all your bungling Grant preconceptions and be in no doubt - he steals the film; right from under the nose of its star Matthew McConaughey.
Let's wrap this up then - the language is eye watering, the gags are punchy and the pace is nothing short of high speed. And it's very funny. What more do you need? It's a masterpiece. ***** (Put that on the side of a bus.)
Today's offering, in true Sesame Street style, is brought to you by the colour yellow. Three photographs - two shot in Nottingham during the recent Christmas break, and the third of my daughter-in- law's footwear taken in Manchester sometime last year. The idea to show them together is kind of obvious and I think (well, I would say this wouldn't I?) pleasing to the eye. Unless, heaven forbid, you suffer from Xanthophobia.
NG - ONE
I came very close to choosing The Race by Yello to sign off today, but thought it a tad obvious; though, ironically, Behind the Wheel by Depeche Mode (seen here in yellow vinyl), I think, more than tips its hat to Yello's Vicious Games. It's a small world. And yellow. Depeche Mode - Behind the Wheel (1987)
We've all done it. Hell, John Peel practically made a living out of it; however, playing vinyl at the wrong speed isn't always a bad thing. Check this out, for instance. I found it on Twitter (where else?) and it works. No, I mean it really works. Jolene sung at 33 rpm.
Dolly Parton - Jolene (1974)
Am I right, or am I right? How to turn a good song into a brilliant song - even her guitar picking sounds wondrous. And if you like that you may or may not want to check out Billy Jean. Slow down!
I'd like to think that the opening words of my first blog of a new year set the tone for the remaining 360 odd days to come. But as last year ended on an all time low (for all sorts of reasons - some obvious, some not so), the bar is currently set pretty low. However, as this blog approaches its 10th anniversary I'm afraid I can't make any promises for 2020. To quote Doris Day, what will be, will be. A Happy New Year to you all.
Ispent much of the holidays re-watching Budgie - Keith Waterhouse's finest creation (surpassing even the brilliance of Billy Liar). I've name-checked Waterhouse and Budgie Bird in previous blogs so I'll concentrate, instead, on the theme music.
Only two series were made by LWT - in 1971 & 1972. The first deployed a haunting instrumental, The Loner, credited to the Milton Hunter Orchestra. Budgie, played by Adam Faith, is seen chasing (always out of reach) pound notes - the programmes's overriding premise encapsulated in just 45 seconds.
For the second series we see the same footage, only this time to the backdrop of a beautiful song written by Ray Davies: Nobody's Fool is - to the untrained ear, the Kinks at the top of their game. Only it isn't. Well, it's Ray Davies singing, that much we do know, but according to the label on the accompanying Pye single, the artist is Cold Turkey. Go figure.
Cold Turkey - Nobody's Fool (1972)
From the bright busy streets off the Charing Cross Road