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December 24, 2007
I've just recorded the first half of my Norfolk Carol poem which is set at sundown out in the fields on Christmas Eve - and done it at sundown out in the fields. I'm going up to the local pub shortly to join other villagers in a brief recapitulation of last night's charity carol singing there. And then I'm going to record part two of my Norfolk Carol (which is about village carol singing) somewhere outside. And then I'm going to have a holiday. I'm getting too literal - or is the literal a post modern metaphor for metaphor?
Radio 3 has caught the national mood as usual all afternoon. Handel? Bach? Byrd? Biber? No, Eric Coates (1886-1957) . And then the ever so Christmassy Wagner. Well done again, Auntie, though don't get too carried away with that party hat. What have you got planned for Easter? Charles Ives? Warlock?
In response to the news that the Anglican church is now the underdog, that's where I'll be off just before midnight. And it's walkable in this village - so as I don't think they've made it illegal to drink-walk yet (though this is surely planned soon) I should be temporarily ok. Have a sober Christmas everyone!
December 22, 2007
December 20, 2007
The delay doesn't worry me overmuch as I've been writing the thing for 18 years. and I also reread it five times this past month, doing the proofs, so I could do with a break from it.
However, anyone out there genuinely disappointed because it's not ready for Christmas, apologies on behalf of all the agents of delay. And I'm confident you'll find the wait worthwhile.
'Poem' of the Month this month is an extract from the novel, the Christmas section that is so much at the heart of the book. Hope it keeps you going until January 6 - or whatever date in January it actually does come out!
December 15, 2007
I'm leaking 'Poem' of theMonth here - it's an extract from my finally imminent first novel. It will appear on the proper Poem of the Month slot on the main website when I can manage to persuade my webmaster to do it for me. He is an angel of the web but he does insist on having a life and a proper high-powered legal career separate from enacting my every whim. Hence the intolerable delay. Anyway, here it is-
Yours was the kiss that awoke my heart.
It lingers still though we’re far apart.
Christmas 1973. ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ by Slade hung like cheap ‘n’ cheerful tinsel in the air. Young Megan came in to the sixth form common room wearing a short, fashionable winter shirt and a mohair cardigan. She got up on a chair to fix up mistletoe. Young Dafydd sat nearby in a scruffy jacket and flared trousers, his hair as hippily long as he could get his parents to accept: never long enough though actually much longer than he realised. His Lennon specs glinted as he pored over some history books.
“I knew there was something missing when I put this lot up,” said Young Megan. “Dafydd?” Dafydd was absorbed in his books. “Dafydd! Are you going to give me a hand or not?”
“Sorry – yeah.”
“Well come on!”
He joined her on the chair. Giggling, they eventually managed to attach the mistletoe she held up.
He coughed. “Megan, are you coming to the school Christmas dance?”
It had taken him three years but he had finally asked her.
She looked at him. A teacher came in. Miss Winterbottom.
“What on earth are you doing?” The teacher kicked at the mess on the floor.
“Christmas decorations, Miss Winterbottom!”
“Get down at once the pair of you! Megan, you’re to see the Head of Sixth immediately. About your appalling exam results.”
Megan made for the door. “See you later … gorgeous.”
The teacher frowned, “What?
“I wasn’t talking to you, Miss.”
Miss Winterbottom followed her out. Over her shoulder she rasped, “Dafydd, I want these decorations taken down immediately.”
“But it’s Christmas!”
“It is also the last day of term. Clear them.”
Young Dafydd, left alone, rebelled briefly, by doing nothing. Then petulantly started to tear down the decorations. He paused under the mistletoe. It was one of those moments when time seems to stand still…
“You again! The new boy from the Taff valley is it? Has anyone shown you the ropes?”
“You showed him before, Sir.”
“I mean, has a pupil?
“I’m in detention.”
“Yeah, I’ll show him the ropes-”
Young Megan came back in. She walked angrily to her desk and packed the decorations that Dafydd had taken down into her bag.
“What’s the matter Megan?”
The world shuddered on its axis. “No!”
“What are you so bothered about?”
“You can’t go!”
“Because … It’s not a matter of ‘Why not?’ It’s a matter of why for God’s sake.”
“Because I’m ‘not academically suited and I have the wrong attitude’.”
Young Megan translated. “I’m thick and I’m rude.”
“Yeah, but …”
“Oh Dafydd, I did well to get this far. My old man says I’d never even have passed the 11 plus in his day. And here I am trying to do ‘A’ levels. Even Miss Millington said yesterday that I would be better advised to concentrate on schoolwork instead of ‘Other Activities’.”
“Sex. And I’m so fed up with not having any money. Brian says, I could be a manageress in a year or two, instead of doing checkout shifts for sod all.”
Dafydd stopped clearing the decorations. “Who’s Brian?”
“The Personnel Manager.”
“That’s the one who got me the sack. Called me a moron.”
“They don’t give you the sack here though, do they? And they say I’m a bad influence on you. You, so they tell me, are University material.”
“That’s what they tell me too. If I ‘apply myself’ and if I make my application to a Welsh University. Sod that.”
“Because you can get into a Welsh University easier if you’re Welsh, so they say.”
“No. Why ‘sod it’.”
“Because I am going to apply to a University that is as far away from here as possible.”
“Oh.” It wasn’t the answer she wanted. She picked up her bag and purse. “I’ve got to go. Brian’s picking me up at one o’clock. Here’s that pound you wanted to borrow for lunch. Don’t spend it on fags again.”
He panicked. “You can’t go yet.” They looked at each other for a reason why not. “What about these decorations?”
They began removing the decorations. Dafydd laughed wryly. “Do you remember when you used to sell snogs for fags?”
“Yeah! I didn’t have any money then.”
“I never had any fags either.” He paused. “You did that for love, not money!”
She stroked his cheek. “Maybe.”
“When shall I give you this quid back? Will you be at the school dance?”
“Give it back to me when you’re rich.”
“Do you really have to go? You might do well at ‘A’ level?”
“No Dafydd. It’s Sainsbury’s for me. The clubs. The lads. Chance of making a bit of money. You’ve got your sights on higher things. University History, Geography. That is what you want isn’t it?”
He sighed, “I suppose so.”
“Well, are you going to take that mistletoe down?”
“Good.” She got up. “Come over here.”
He crossed to her, suddenly terrified. “Ok, but look, I won’t be able to do this as good as usual. I’ve got a crick in me neck.”
She kissed him skilfully, her hair redolent of last night’s perfume. His arms appeared bolted to his sides. And Time stood still again….
“Don’t worry. I came here late too. From the rough school on the valley estate. And look at me!”
“The rough school?”
“Millstone Colliery Secondary Modern. I’m a Modern Girl.” Megan smiled at Dafydd again….
“Something to remember me by,” she murmured, and was gone.
Because time never does stand still really. Dafydd came to, looking around, still feeling her back under the soft cardigan in his fingertips. And still feeling the spines of the Edwardian radiator in his back. The winter sunset was turning the room red.“ Megan?” He started towards the door.
Ramo came in. “What’s up?”
“Nothing. I was just … looking for someone.”
(from the forthcoming Bluechrome novel, River Deep Mountain High, by Gareth Calway c.2007.)
Oh and if you get the chance, listen to the proper Phil Spector produced version of that title by Ike and Tina. Everyone knows Ike treated Tina abusively. Few seem to know he saw his father killed by a white mob at the age of eight. I wish I could hear it as the musical version of a happy marriage. It clearly wasn't, but that song rocks -there was a marriage of sound certainly - and there wasn't much rock before Ike and his ilk. There was Bill Haley but we needed Ike (and then Tina) - so let's hope ths song gets him a bit of remission.
December 06, 2007
Two reasons. (1) It's my daughter's 21 st party in Brighton tomorrow and there's a sixties theme and (2) I bought the stuff in Nottingham yesterday where I did a Tales Out Of School poetry reading at the Rose of England pub on Mansfield Road. It was the first gig I've done since the Fringe and the audience (one of those uniquely and gloriously knot-free NATE poetry-ins) made me feel like the Beatles honed and handsome and just back from Hamburg for a homecoming at the Cavern.
I concentrated on the funny side of school for most of it and boy did they laugh - I had a feeling they just might have been there, ie painted into a school corner with a janitor hitting them on the funny bone until it hurt. Enduring exams, unsuitable peripatetic music teachers, sentence completion exercises, over-zealous deputy heads, hysterical drama teachers with Welsh accents, Mr Hasbeen, Evans the Dap and a Head who was so careful not to offend anyone in his 'Act of Worship' that he disappeared long way up his own backside: oh yes, we laughed away the frets and fumes. Then for the final 10-15 minutes, I previewed the novel (out next week) with two extracts - a Christmas sixth form love story that never gets where it ought to and then revisited the same girl (and the same love story) thirty years on, now a teacher. I know from experience how good it is as an adult to have a story read to me (even kids don't get enough of this now and adults almost never) and this seemed to provide the necessary engagement. It reminded me of how my daughter used to settle and go pleasantly pensive when I read to her at bedtime. For my part, having recently read the whole novel five times on screen (330 pages!) for the 'final' proofs, it was great to get my characters and storyline back , paradoxically, bygiving it to this wonderful audience. Lots of people said very nice things afterwards and generally made me feel like a Beatle. Thank you Nottingham - and particualrly thank you to Jane (and Stuart) who organised it and got a decent audience out and into the city for poetry on a Wednesday night towards the end of a hard term. And thank you finally to Rosie who did an introductory reading of poems. She is a genuine community poet - a very moving and engaging one who shares every word of it from deep - poetry written from experiences working with prisoners commissioned by a bus company, one poem per route (That would be one poem where I live; in Nottingham it's a book's worth). Funny too. This is where poetry should be - sent back into the community to do its divine work. A great evening - and it was still great at 3 am looking at this wonderful city through red wine tinted spectacles.
December 04, 2007
Full details of the event are on earlier postings on this blog. I hope I can help to cheer up the last weeks of Christmas term. See you there!
All poetry books are £6 inclusive of p & p. this month.
Special Christmas package of Exile plus the new CD = £15 plus £1.50 p&p (save over £4)
Any two poetry books £10 incl. p& p.
The novel has been slightly delayed but will be available through this website - as well as via Bluechrome, Book Depository, Amazon and pretty much everywhere - within a week. So there's still time to get pre-launch copies before Christmas.
December 01, 2007
November 28, 2007
You can read full details and download the flyer for the event here.
If that's not attraction enough, you can also get some one-night-only offers on the poet's forthcoming OUP resources on a Henrietta Branford KS3 novel from the bookstall!
November 21, 2007
November 17, 2007
You can read full details and download the flyer for the event here.
November 12, 2007
A Great Match (Wolves 1 City 1)
A match of two
Fast and furious halves:
A cheeky grin
On two photographs:
Gareth Calway's face;
Gary Johnson's .... ?
(Answers on the other side of a postage stamp)
But was that fuss-making point at Wolves worth losing the next six for?
The Bottom Line
Everybody’s talking about anatomy,
obscene gestures committee,
Show us all his ass?
All Gary’s saying
Is watch us, we’re class.
(Or we were until everyone took their eye off the ball and started looking at Burton’s window)
November 09, 2007
Both dreams came true, one by proxy and one in actuality, on October 18 at Dereham Sixth Form College. One whole day, without any examination or curriculum constraints, and with receptive and extremely switched on students - what a great way to earn a living!
Over the years, I've got used to (a) explaining everything three times and (b) students still not really getting it. At Dereham, they got it even before I'd finished explaining it the first time. What luxury. I was then able to push on to the next level - and then the next.
My all day class was large but made up of upper sixth English literature and language students plus some specialist creative writing enthusiasts - in other words, the movers of shakers of tomorrow's language and literary world - and it was a treat to rediscover with them the riches of words on the page and on the breath. The overarching theme was schooldays and I started with haiku as the best way of distilling the emotions of first day at school in one snapshot moment, one breath of memory/ reliving. For the rest of the day, students brought their haiku up to the display at the front on post-it notes until we had a pageant of passion and pain and also, in more cases than I expected, pleasure as well as poignancy. One haiku evoked the feelings of the mother as her child departed for the school/ world beyond her with such a harrowing sense of loss but also of acceptance that I'm sure we were already reading a considerable poet of the future. And/or, which might be more important, a profound scholar of human experience.
Other forms tackled during the day included persona/masks, stichomythia (in playcript), the loaded opening sentence /paragraph/ page of a novel and the ever faithful - but ever fascinating - metaphor extensions of the furniture game. I am looking forward very much to the portfolio of 'pieces' that students are going to send me for anthologising and adjudicating before Christmas. If what I saw on the day is anything to go by, the collections are going to be that rare combination of energy and intelligence, angst and celebration that a really good and really enthused and well taught (I mean by their usual teachers!) sixth form can produce. The luxury of having a whole day to focus on this very favourable and enlightened set up for writing and to take it a bit further than is usually possible in a school or college timetabled day was one I relished and I very much hope the students felt the same. Thank you, Dereham
November 05, 2007
So when I walked over the mountain in the gathering dusk from Pontnewynydd, following my old truancy trail, and entered via the old smoker's lane (now Incline Road) I found myself looking at the landscape of my novel River Deep Mountain High. I was also almost as nervous sat with the front row big wigs facing the even bigger wigs on the stage (lots of these) as I used to be when giving the prefect's reading in Prayers or about to make my speech as Anarchist candidate in the school elections.
I was asked to 'say a few words about poetry'. 'But I was told there was no need to say anything'. 'Oh no, I think you must.' 'I'll just say who the prize is in honour of, then' 'Oh, no, I'll do that. You say about the poetry.'
So here I was, as tense as a schoolboy, wondering what I could say off the cuff that summed up what this lifelong activity of mine means to me and what it might mean to them. And there were an awful lot of them, pupils, parents, teachers, dignitaries, including Roy Noble OBE. Alan Brown, my A level English teacher at Abersychan and my first head of Department was one of those rare teachers who said everything that needed to be said in a few well chosen words, a good advert for the verbal economy of poetry and a good guide to public speaking for me. Mentioning Mr Brown's brevity and verbal pertinence as I took the microphone, I said 'poetry won't make you rich financially but it will make you rich inwardly and in terms of your experience, so I commend it to you'. Then, relying on the smooth organisation of the lady handing me the right shield at the right time, I presented the prize and shook a few Year 8 and 9 hands. Then I started really enjoy the evening.
November 04, 2007
October 13, 2007
Here's one for Bristol City fans. It's about the first defeat of the season (v. Barnsley). As you know, "I Only Sing When We're Losing".
Just Like Watching Brazil?
It's the hope that kills you.
Now we've come at last to grief
After six yard box heroics
Brazilian pepper and Bristol beef
In game after nail-chewing game,
It's - almost - a relief.
September 08, 2007
September 07, 2007
August 25, 2007
As usual with photos at Brentford (as in the cover of Bristol City Ruined My Life But Made My Day) I knew nothing about this one, which was taken by Ed Hayes. I will be contacting my lawyer about it. Still, the haircut was by the Clifton barber (who cuts several of our lads' hair, despite being a Rovers fan) and I first saw this photo as I was just celebrating a 2-1 win in the Championship v. Scunthorpe, the first victory at that level since the last century. So I won't be pressing charges, Ed. We are staying up, I said we are staying up!
August 19, 2007
13 Aug 2007
"the good old days, where boys were caned ... got thrown out of the window only to be replaced by Stalinist targets and overzealous Ofsted invigilators." Three Weeks (Edinburgh Festival Journal) *
17 Aug 2007
Reviewer: Trevor Clutterbuck, United Kingdom
Anyone who has been to school will relate to this clever spin on teaching from an insider's view. All of those speech days when the teachers have to toe the party line and entertain the parents exposed with 27 years of history explodes in one hour. Go and see it and be educated again. ****
Tales Out Of School!
11 Aug 2007
Reviewer: Daniel Clay, United Kingdom
Gareth Calway gives a talented and very humorous one man show on life in the teaching profession! ... A very polished and enthusiastic perfomer and performance - a real shame if you missed it!****;
Tales Out Of School!
9 Aug 2007
I am sure that Gareth Calway was a wonderful teacher for all of his 27 years... a rich breadth of character and scenarios ...The message of the show is spelled out ... in the last 6 or so lines of the performance....Spirited effort. **
Tales Out Of School
Reviewer: Wendy Baker, United Kingdom
An hour well spent, will appeal to anyone who has been to school. ****
Like many of performers at the Edinburgh fringe in the summer of 2007, I was a school leaver. The only difference was that rather than anxiously awaiting A level results, I was anxiously awaiting a pension - and leaving behind for good a teaching career of a quarter of a century.
I was also a Fringe virgin. And I’d not really done street publicity before. So I checked out the competition – hundreds of eager handbill merchants - with some trepidation. “Where would be without comedy?” one rasping Glaswegian stand up quizzed the crowds, before answering his own question. Germany. The end of the world is coming. You’ve just got time to catch our Apocalypse show before it does!” screeched bowler hatted teenagers from pillar boxes and statues across the royal mile (actually kilometre). I wasn’t sure at first if they were Fringe performers or genuine doom merchants but they looked remarkably cheerful about the end of the world, either way. A pantomime-bearded ‘Islamic Jihad’ commando ambushed me from the gutter, put a finger to his lips, handed me his show details and then crawled off up the pavement. “It’s like trying to sell pork scratchings in a synagogue,” said the Big Issue seller, and I knew how he felt. My pile of ‘daring’ “Tales Out Of School- A Retired Teacher Lets It All Out” publicity stunt postcards suddenly looked a bit tame. “If you don’t come to the show, as least you’ve got a free postcard” I joshed to anyone passing who looked interested and/or young and beautiful enough not to be from QCA.
The funniest line all fortnight from an American at breakfast in my hotel enquiring about the fried bread. “That’s bread that’s been fried, right?”...
I was invited to perform a five minute spot at a Smart Café – very much out of my comfort zone - which I did in my Old School gown and cane, spouting a lot of what felt like teacher in-jokes to a ‘smart’ international audience to whom it all might well mean nothing. It was my biggest audience all fortnight, by about a hundred. (The average Fringe house is six). I have never felt so close to the huge void that divides the individual from the vast buzzing anonymous city and I experienced the whole thing as if I wasn’t there. Someone took a photo and I’m not. There’s just a pillar and some stage lights!
It was almost a relief to be back in the converted Masons’ lodge that served as my usual ‘performance space’, with a kids’ Robin Hood show thumping away upstairs and the Castle bagpipes outside pitching in daily after twenty minutes (except on Sundays). After all the careful texts I’ve written over the decades of my career, the biggest laughs I got were from improvisations and readings of actual pupils’ responses to Sentence Completion tests. You all know the sort of thing – “The sign said, Beware wet paper; Alice always tried to do her best and was very tedious about her work; When she heard the sad news she felt very synthetic.” The following multiple choice always went down well too:
Drftwood Comprehensive, school motto Norfolk and good, has improved its position in the league tables for the 30th year running by hitting all its:
Driftwood is now the most comprehensive
(e) secretarial, administration and data-processing centre
in Norfolk .
The Minister for Education announced that 103% of pupils in England would achieve an A to C in maths by
(e) intensive exam coaching uninterrupted by any real teaching.
Many of the experiences I satirised in Tales Out Of School struck international chords, particularly with a party of Spanish teachers. One of this party frowned off-puttingly, throughout until I played the Old School Headmaster and then she got the giggles. I asked her afterwards whether she had objected to the polemics of the early pieces and it was this point that I learned from her companions that she couldn’t speak a word of English. I got several Headmasters in who said they liked it. One actually gave me a mark (4 out of 5.) I also got an adviser (who apologised!) and an Ofsted inspector (who grinned and bore it). One Saturday, I had some Bristol Rovers supporters in. There is no danger whatsoever that QCA or the Government will listen to me any more now than they did when I was teaching – but I can say honestly that teachers from all over the world did.
Some jokes were on me though. My church venue that threw dozens of acts out into the festival wilderness because one errant company proposed staging blasphemous material. Only one company had an alternative venue in place by the next day and yes, it was the one who got the rest of us thrown out. Our management then went into liquidation and waltzed off with all my money. Then my nice new rescue-management proceeded to smile at me all the way to the bank. For instance, half an hour before my first show, I was told I could not go on stage without liability insurance – another invisible ‘extra’– and so had to dash down the hill and back to fax off yet another load of money while I should have been in the green room getting nervous. The hill concerned is the one with Edinburgh castle on – it’s as steep as a fringe festival financial outlay. I was still busting a gut half way up when my audience was being admitted.
I leave you with the show's last seven lines. Write them out 100 times, Mr QCA!
Look at the sky, child.
That's Sirius (the Dog),
Orion (the Hunter),
There's the Plough.
That's how, according to our lights,
August 06, 2007
August 01, 2007
July 27, 2007
|DON'T SULLY CITY'S ACHIEVEMENTS |
from The Western Daily Press- 19 July 2007
| How dare the Observer sub-headline Beckham in the same breath as "Bristol City", "struggle" and "to beat"? One has just achieved a notable promotion after a long struggle to beat predatory demons, media diminution and accent-mimicking mockery, and the other is Bristol City.|
Gareth Calway Bristol City poet in residence
July 26, 2007
Roman Eagle Lodge 3-12 August 12 noon daily. Tickets £7, concessions £5
Several stories and character monologues are taken from the forthcoming Bluechrome novel, River Deep Mountain High, a romantic comedy set in a Welsh school. This new show also includes some of the hilarious work Gareth has written as poet in residence for Bristol City Football Club.
School's out - forever - for this old timer. And he's going to teach everyone at Driftwood Comprehensive a lesson they'll never forget!
"... A marvellously witty - and at times poignant - take on 'the best years of our lives' set on the day of an OFSTED inspection at the fictional Driftwood Comprehensive the show is a lively mix of poetry, theatre and incidental rock music featuring a host of colourful school characters and types. An imaginative antidote to the narrow and clinical culture of league tables..."
EDP Books, February 2001
"...very funny... a metaphor for a country in decline..."
"...The writing is sharp and often very funny... and even - would you believe it - a happy ending!" Jenny Mollan
"...With the ruthless eye of an assassin and the deep affection of a man coming home, Gareth Calway lays into the very structures of Welsh identity..."
South Wales Argus
"Reflective rock and roll poetry in the mould of John Cooper Clarke and Linton Kwesi Johnson. And because he cares about education, Calway gives it a sharp and intelligent campaigning edge"
"...Typically Welsh, he reserved some of the best jibes for himself in this semi-autobiographical and totally entertaining show..."
South Wales Argus
"....Funny and poignant - and not without a healthy NUT view of successive government education policies ruining what ought to be "the best job in the world" Calway's coalfield schooldays in Wales set the mood - Rugby isn’t cricket in Wales - it’s war..."
"...an hilarious gallery of colourful characters from trendy teachers to Old School Tartars..." Eastern Daily Press Review Section
"...An authentic report from the chalk-face..."
"...hilarious tour de force..."
"...'Marked For Life' is quite brilliant..."
James Sale, Director of the Schools Poetry Association.
Click here to get a direct link to Gareth Calway's Website
Unique selling points for this one man show are - (a) Poetry as you’ve never seen it before – a fusion of high quality poetic language with theatrical performance. The Guardian called it “Very funny but real enough…a metaphor for a country in decline”. (b) a real-life career teacher’s angle on a universal experience – schooldays, assemblies, exams, teachers under comic pressure –not the dated stereotype that often passes for ‘school’ on telly (c) old school gown as a tragic-comical ‘mask’ bespeaking the times. (d) two equal arts in synthesis: quality writing; quality performance
Target audience: anyone interested in, furious about, amused by or otherwise involved in education as pupils or teacher, anyone with Welsh or Bristol connections, especially those who find hysterical Welsh teachers and Bristol City Football Club and fans amusing. Anyone with Norfolk connections (the school it’s set in is Driftwood Comprehensive, Dis on Sea, somewhere in Norfolk, afficinadoes of the Beatles and the Clash.
June 25, 2007
If you were in it, or saw it, and read this, let me know what you thought here.
June 10, 2007
Smithdon School Drama ProductionAt Princess Theatre, Hunstanton
Price: £5.00/£2.50 under 16's
As my daughter would say, it's all basically kicking off. I'll be there in the second row, mouthing the lines I've worked over for half my career along. If the cast falter, I could probably take over so it's a good job they won't. Ex Head of English John Davies, who will be with me, will no doubt shout down any audience inattention. He usually does.
Break a legend everybody.
June 01, 2007
Forty Years Ago TodayThe Beatles' Pepper-hot summer of love soundtrack album came out on June 1 1967. As a tribute to a band who curiously write so often for 'all the lonely people' (why did loneliness preoccupy such in-crowd guys?) , here's an excerpt from my Beatle novel/play/poem/whatever...
How did you do what you did to my rebel big sister in the summer of love? If I knew how you did it to her-
- If you can remember it, man, you weren’t there.
Tch. I wasn’t. I was eleven. I “had to go to bed early”. It would take me until 1973 to grow a moustache. The only acid I experimented with was in chemistry practicals. And my only bad trips were the bus rides to Grammar School. I wanted to go all the way down to Strawberry Fields instead - and then all the way up Penny Lane. As always with the Fabs, you got a lot more for your pocket money. I had to rely on the radio of course, not having the largesse of my podgy friend Timothy, but by time you got there, a haunting elegy is making you as happy as a fool on a hill. And then you turn around at Penny Lane for a big yellow iced lolly of joy. And all the better for that hint of acid in every lick!
Meanwhile, in the grown up world, The Times is calling Sergeant Pepper “a decisive moment in the history of Western civilisation.” The BBC is banning it. Tim Uptheroad’s Dad is saying the Beatles are young boys with more money than sense and that they dress like women. My big sister says his Dad’s idea of a man is a killer in khaki and that she prefers the peace uniforms the Beatles are wearing against Nam on ‘Pepper’. Mam snaps back that the summer of love is a fancy phrase for living in sin and that my sister has let her knickers down, whatever that means .
- Follow that, Mick.
Well, the Stones usually do. Which isn’t a put down - originality isn’t everything. Stones’ records seldom start less than brilliantly. They really kick. And then they get stuck in a groove. But the Beatles were never predictable like that. And in 1967, having rewritten the groove in 1963, they rewrote the groove again so completely that for once the Stones – with the possible exception of Brian Jones - couldn’t find it. Meanwhile, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band led a whole generation up a completely different garden path. Past tangerine trees and flowers that grew incredibly high. Follow that, Mick
- Come on, Mick!
Nobody could though. Not even the Beach Boys whose mind-bending harmonies helped to inspire the change. And certainly not the arse-wriggling Stones. The Stones weren’t going to start evolving now. They had peacock-and fannied into the aristocracy of the English class system in their Beatle haircuts sooner than you could say St John’s Wood while Our John was still agonising about childminders. They’d followed the Fabs to the top of the English-free zone that used to be the US charts and we called it the British Invasion. But before I Want To Hold Your Hand any British Invasion was about as likely as the “Coronation Street” theme panning over Manhattan skyline. And the un-cute, unoriginal – though undoubtedly rocking – 1960s Stones never got invited up to Buckingham Palace either where naturally our Mopheads of the British Empire shared a pre-MBE joint in the naughty boys’ room. And when some debutante asked John if he was “the funny one” he said, “No, I’m the one with the big dick.” “The Beatles want to hold your hand but the Stones want to burn down your town,” wrote Tom Woolf. But it was the Beatles who burned it down.
I read a PG Wodehouse public school novel recently where all the angst is solved in the last chapter. The chaps who doubted the chap who couldn’t rat on a chap (even though that chap, rather than he, was a bounder). But in the last chapter it all comes out and the chaps organise it so the hero gets to score the winning try as the house team he’d been sacked in disgrace from wins the Cup. And as I put the book down, I suddenly found myself saying aloud about my life and career, “It hasn’t been like that- it’s all gone wrong for me.” And I cried like a child for what I’ve never had. And it’s that feeling – that glimpse of Eden from outside – that the Beatles music always captures for me.
George, what’s the most important thing in life?
May 06, 2007
Bristol City are promoted to the Championship.
Coca-Cola Football League One : Table
05 May 16:57
May 05, 2007
(The Last Man To Play Football and Cricket For England. Played for Arsenal , Bristol City and Gloucestershire. He could also knock off the Telegraph crossword in the dressing room in 20 minutes.)
Denis Compton. Willie Watson, Arthur Milton.
Icons from an age of the gentle sportsman.
Graced the football/cricketing whites of England
On pitches they turned to the greens of Eden.
Now Arthur is dead, who just for one season
Graced the wing of a City pitched for promotion
And centred so sweetly – for Gentleman John
(His England team-mate) to score clean and strong.
Arthur (like John) was a craftsman
With hard ball too, an England batsman
Wielding willow like wand. Where have they gone?
These angel wingers with muddy shorts on?
These gods of the crease who retire to be postmen
And weighed so lightly the fields they scored on?
So rich in gifts, so poor in ambition,
Premier players unpampered by mammon.
Sleep well, old Arthur, God’s own Bristolian.
If we go up today, as we did in your season,
Give us your quick smile from sporting heaven.
April 29, 2007
April 16, 2007
April 13, 2007
I hear a moan - of the earth, but unearthly -
On the other side of the wall.
I creep round, girding my loins from some horror.
"A lamb's having birth!" pipes a child, beckoning.
I join the haggle,
Watch the quiet kindness of humans
As the lamb's bud-horns lock her
In the coffin of her mother's womb,
Watch them wrestling with spindly legs, dashing for aid,
While, irrelevant but insistent,
A turkey courts hens round our shins,
Feathers at full sail, twirling in absurd vanity,
Tattered, matted, red-sore raw and ugly beyond belief.
A man returns with a lifeline of coarse string.
A woman helps him coax birth
From the patiently groaning ewe.
The lamb is dead on the hay.
They lay it at the mother's mouth for her to lick.
"Is it all right?" asks someone, stupidly.
I knew it from the start.
....But the lamb stirs.
My heart shouts with the joy of it.
Stubborn, hopeless, quiveringLife!
March 20, 2007
and on it you'll find all the world wide scrapbook called Bard on the Wire, all the archives and the pages based on each of my books. And of course the purchase page.It is now a purchase page you can actually buy direct from. Just click on a button and one of my books can be heading your way. This relaunched site has everything in fact except poem of the month, which you will find here on the blog instead.
The blog will remain as a chatty extension to the main site,
but if you want the real McCalway, it's on www.garethcalway.co.uk
March 06, 2007
by Warwick Mansell, Times Educational Supplement
Published: 23 February 2007
Is there poetry in football songs? Gareth Calway, head of English at Smithdon high in Hunstanton, Norfolk, and official poet of Bristol City FC, thinks so.
The ritual of chant and counter-chant is a "beautiful example of the poetic craft", says Mr Calway, who last year recreated the intensity of the terraces in a series of lessons.
Some might question the poetry in "We are the boys in red and white/We love to drink and love to fight", or "We love you city, we do" - but not this supporter, it seems.
The centrepiece was a CD he played of a Bristol City song, in which the fans let their opponents know where they are from and then, not very gently, mock their arch rivals, Bristol Rovers.
Some sections of the following extract have to be handled with care in the classroom. The chant runs: "Everywhere we go/People want to know/Who we are/Where we're from/We are from Bristol/Bristol City/ We are the boys in red and white/Love to drink and love to fight.
"We hate the Rovers/But City we love you/We love you city, we do/We love you City, we do/We love you City, we do/Oh, City we love you."
The class is then invited to devise its own, slightly sanitised, version, with "love to drink and fight" replaced with "love to do our work all night", and with another local school replacing Rovers, which they then sing.
Mr Calway used the football songs in a lesson also covering traditional African hunting chants and the poetry of the Bible. It finished with pupils writing their own verse on a subject of their choice but using the rhythmic structure of the football anthems.
Mr Calway believes football matchday rituals follow in a long tradition of oral poetry, dating back to the choruses that formed the backdrop to ancient Greek theatre.
"The pupils love the lesson," he said. "I also use drums and old football rattles to add to the atmosphere in the classroom. I even said the aim was to get complaints from other classes about the noise. Actually we didn't have any. Some of the boys I taught really wanted to learn. Some stayed behind to talk about the structure of a chant they had heard at Norwich City, writing it down and then trying to learn it."
Mr Calway will be presenting a workshop on the "poetry of sport", which will also look at the lyricism of recent writing on cricket, at the National Association for the Teaching of English's annual conference in Manchester on April 1 and 2.
March 05, 2007
I have had several experiences now with the younger end of the school age-range now and I have to say, the complete lack of cynicism and the big-eyed wondering enjoyment of words and all things creative of that age range at Milborne was a real restorative. It was a six hour drive down for me after work the previous day and I also had a car breakdown and a need to call the AA (the car people not the alcoholic agency) so I was wondering if it was worth it when I travelled in to this relatively unfamiliar territory.
Well, it certainly was. Even the fact that the school was not in Weymouth (as I expected) - hence all the compensating w alliteration here - could not take the edge off a wonderful day, chanting, becoming and bespeaking animals and revisiting infant memories recorded in crayon drawings with captions like "I am four/ I poo on Daddy's shirt!!". I understand there is even going to be a 100 page booklet of the poems produced and properly printed. So all power to you, Milborne. One of my best ever days in a school!
January 31, 2007
the key you wear
around your neck
opens a door
cut from a tree
used to hang a man
i am still that man
a son of god
but love not
to be crossed so cruelly
for wanting to love thee
Something very weird happened last night. I was reading Susan Cooper's book "King of Shadows" for a review with some Schubert playing. On page 164 there is a reference to a girl wearing a key around her neck. Through a series of concentrated Proustian associations, I was back in 1974 and the above poem - which I wrote then but have long since lost and forgotten - popped verbatim and complete back into my head. Whatever you think of the poem - it's the poem of a nineteen year old I used to be in a relationship and a world long gone - this experience must have interest for how the mind works and/or how poetry is retained and written. I'll try to reassemble the clues at the scene of the crime. I was living alone in an illegally sub-let student bedsit room in Weymouth. (see "Gap Year, Weymouth" in "Exile In His Own Country" for another poem reclaimed from the same shipwreck). I had the key to that room on a string around my neck to avoid losing it. My girlfriend from the otehr side of town wore a cross in the same way. I used to spend most of my supplementary benfit on the rent, a classical music album and a book instead of food every week - a Romantic education. I was studying the Romantics and I had bought "Schubert's Greatest Hits" -an intro to another kind of music. I had heard my hippy uncle rehearsing a play of manners at the college in which a character says "I love not to be crossed". I remember being a bit complacently proud about stealing that clever satirical line of wit back for the Romantic agony. The poem came complete then just as it did again last night. Its emotional directness, ardent conflation of sexual and spiritual yearning, inferiority complex flirting with messiahanic complex, are embarrassingly naked to me now but the fifty year old writing this apologia is still proud of the simple lyrical blast I wrote then instead of all this fiddling about now. There are worse crimes than being eighteen/nioeteen, studying Romanticism, an being desperate to get laid by the last coy mistress of the 70s.
I suppose I was trying in my own way to preach the Everlasting Gospel with Blake, Leonard Cohen and other such heroes of my late teens.
I'm going to do a workshop in Weymouth early next month and will be having a look at the physical door in Abbotsbury Road that suggested the symbolic one of the poem. I really did believe Jesus would have been appalled by a religion in His name that was to do with locked doors rather than liberation. I really did believe that everyone had the potential to be a Son of God. I still do. It was a bit hard on the girl to blame her for crucifying the Jesus she worshipped, perhaps - she was much more Martha than Caiphas - but I still do believe that our modern Church/Chapel would be among the frontrunners to crucify the Messiah if he did return so I have to stand by that too.
January 27, 2007
(as broadcast today on Radio Bristol and published in the Western Daily Press)
08:00 - 27 January 2007
How many Os in Middlesb(o)rough?
Some people think there are two.
There's one - except this Saturday
A nought at the end will do.
But what will the City figure be?
What number will settle the score
With credits to Murray, Showunmi
Maybe? Just the one? Maybe two. Maybe four?
Gareth Calway, Bard of Ashton Gate
January 18, 2007
Put our first away win
For months on a pedestal
The goals went in
Bang! bang! like a pistol
Our attack like infantry
Their defence like crystal
We went to championship Coventry
And sent them to Bristol!
January 10, 2007
And now the battle’s over, let us praise
The awesome victors, never down for long,
But when they’re down, immeasurably strong:
At Edgbaston just two runs short, outplayed;
At Manchester, Lee’s Last Stand saved their day;
At Trent Bridge, following on, they still piled on
A total only just too few for Warne
To spin the English difference and erase.
And when they’re up, not even England’s best
- 500 plus in Adelaide, Perth, Day One –
Can stop the outback ranger, wild McGrath
From storming back to win – to pass – each Test,
His face a grinning sun, nor subtler Warne
From lifting cricket with his Last Hurrah.
© Gareth Calway, official poet laureate Bristol City FC,
on temporary loan to Sportsworld.
As broadcast on the BBC World Service, Jan 2007.
Sportsworld's producer rang me up last Friday evening and asked for an accolade for Warne and McGrath. I drank a few glasses of (strictly non-Australian) red wine, gritted my teeth and wrote this sonnet. The next day I broadcast said sonnet personally by phone while 149 million listeners worldwide hung on every word, including one woman as far away as Dersingham, Norfolk - a "first time World Service listener"- who contacted me later to declare herself a "first time World Service listener", and also, I assume, to be enthralled, not just by the glorious poetry but by the towering sporting achievements of two Australian cricketers over the last decade. Extraordinary that two men who have made me miserable on so many occasions should be the inspiration for this world-flung sonnet and also for this unexpected connection with a new WS listener living over four miles away. Sportsworld has twice called my contributions 'prose' - I think (and hope) they mean 'verse' - but for those who wonder what my prose tribute to the two great antipodean sportsmen would be, it's this - thank God they've gone, the smirking Aussie b******s.
January 02, 2007
(With sincere apologies to Wilfred Owen for repeating tragedy as farce.)
What broken winds for these collapsing losers
Only the laughing Bronx-jeer of the crowds,
Only the monstrous blast of Aussie boozers
Can knell this mournful blue sky lined with clouds.
Another innings ending in disaster,
Another ‘rescue’ bowler hit for four,
The “sound-the-cazoo” rally-charge of batters,
Another chance not taken: that’s the score.
An orchestra of media explanations,
Diminuendo notes of patchy play,
The dirge-ereedo of bowling plans astray,
The cello notes of Aggers lost in drums,
The sigh of Hayden, Symonds still not taken,
The groan as loss becomes annihilation.
© Gareth Calway 2006
Official Poet Laureate Bristol City
(Unofficial Poet In residence Sportsworld, BBC World Service)
I hope all this is wrong with regard Sydney of course and last night's batting was probably England's best all day in the field since Adelaide. I hope I'm writing a pastsiche of a Great English Poem without it being a parody for Sportsworld next Saturday. (By the way, if you have an idea for a great English poem to pastische for Sydney that fits what's happening there this week, please let me know and I'll try to oblige). I hope we all have a Happy New Year basking in sustained English sporting success. But at present, the hope that springs eternal is lost on holiday somewhere along the Great barrier Reef.