December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas to all my reader. (The singular is, I hope, just my little joke.)

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

The Robin Sings

Tied on points with the Baggies
In a giddy second spot
The leaders' scalp in the bag already
Just two points off the top.
The robin is singing from branches
I never thought we'd reach,
Bobble hats off to Mr Johnson,
It's dank December, but life's a beach.

December 20, 2007

Delayed Publication of Novel

The latest date I've been given for the publication of my novel is January 6th, or January 10th if you're going by the first launch.

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

Merry Christmas Everybody

Welcome to my hundredth post - and a Hippy Christmas to all my readers.

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-

Chapter Six

No Future

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?
“No sir.”
“I’m in detention.”
“Yeah what?”
“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?”
“I’m leaving.”
The world shuddered on its axis. “No!”
“What are you so bothered about?”
“You can’t go!”
“Why not?”
“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’.”
“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

Rose of England, Nottingham, Dec 5

I'm writing this in a Beatle wig, Lennon shades, 'Love' badge, Rubber Soul/Revolver/Byrds period suit and purple cravat. In fact, I'm just taking off the wig because I'm too hot. I'm too hot for my wig, too hot for my wig.

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

Calway's Last Stand at Nottingham, Weds Dec 5

Calway's Last Stand, the CD of my last Fringe show last summer, is now out and will be on the bookstall at Nottingham tomorrow at a Christmas gift-price!

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!

CD Christmas Sale (Books Too)

If you buy any of my existing CDs through the website this month, they are now all reduced to £10 incl p&p and the new CD Calway's Last Stand - out today - is £10 plus £1.50 p&p.

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

Away At Watford

Now all you down-talkers have got to believe us.

We went for broke and beat the leaders.

November 28, 2007

Nottingham Poetry Event Dec 5- further news

Gareth will be appearing at "An evening of entertaining poetry", hosted by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) in Nottingham on Wednesday 5 December.

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!

A Snowball in Hull

Some draws speak louder than wins.
This is where the fight-back begins.
Away, on a four, down to ten;
And denied a stone last minute pen.
Gary, honest as he is strong,
Will never stay down for long.

November 21, 2007

Clueless In Ipswich (after Milton, Eyeless In Gaza)

A Tie Of Two Halves

It was a game of two halves.
We lost the first half 2-0
And the second half 4-0.
It was a game of two teams.
One was brilliant, fast, took
Every chance, the other was
Off form, injured, unlucky, awful.
Standing crushed and alone
After, at an Ipswich bus stop
Listening to the blue buzz,
I answered my mobile phone
Very loudly, ‘yeah we lost
Six nil, but it’s a tie of two
Halves: they’ve had it now.
We’ll MASSACRE them at home.’

November 17, 2007

See Me Live! NATE Poetry Event, December 5

Gareth will be appearing at "An evening of entertaining poetry", hosted by the National Association for the Teaching of English (NATE) in Nottingham on Wednesday 5 December.

You can read full details and download the flyer for the event here.

November 12, 2007

Unofficial November Poem of the Month

There's a proper Poetry poem on the official website - called "November". For those of a football disposition, here's an unofficial one. I was at Ipswich on Saturday watching my team get swept away by a brilliant attacking force for whom nothing went wrong all day. It would have been enjoyable if it wasn't for the suicidal gloom squeezing me by the throat. I blame Fontaine and his silly bet with the manager (as referenced in this snippet published in the Bristol Evening Post)

A Great Match (Wolves 1 City 1)

A match of two
Fast and furious halves:
Fontaine's goal
McIndoe's pass;
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,
will he,
won’t he,
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

Be A Writer For A Day at Dereham Sixth Form College

All my schooldays I wanted a writer to come in to school and teach me how to write. And all my teaching career I wanted to spend a whole day with bright sixth formers working on their creative writing.

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

Abersychan School Prize Evening, Oct 25

This Prize Evening meant an awful lot to me. Abersychan is my old school, a very good one back in the coalfield day, and even though it now has a spanking new frontage facing in a completely different direction (north-facing, up valley towards Blaenafon, if my school geography hasn't let me down) and a fully comprehensive intake (it was a Grammar-Techncial school when I went and briefly taught there.) It is still the root of a lot of what I have done since.

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

Away At West Brom - Languages of Football Workshop

I don't get out much these days. But when I do, it's very exciting. My languages of football workshop in West Bromwich. West Bromwich - a big busy friendly deadpan town in between the more glamorous cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton, but usually with a better football team - was completely new territory for me as is the Midlands generally. I got the usual mixed messages in advance: a school with phenomenal results from ordinary kids, serious community education, but 'quite disaffected' boys in the lower sets, inspectors watching and needing to be impressed, the kids will love it - we think - etc. I got some of these boys (and girls) chanting and it was the loudest I've ever heard. One powerfully built lad who I installed as chorus leader I would like to have at my side on any football terrace or indeed at any of my future workshops but I'm not sure I could deal with his stentorian delivery in an ordinary English lesson four times a week! And after a few false starts there was a real John Lennon live in the hotel room moment when the Give Peace A Chance (adapted to the football terrace Give Us A Goal) percussion and voice audio veritee actually shambled into sync and we felt the power of that joyous collective noise and indeed the brilliance and honesty of Lennon's original project. (Queen did a spin off, We Will Rock You, but in the studio and with a more conventional guitar break to lift it to a climax - Lennon's version was a genuine community 'happening' with a much more original and subtle dynamic - the improvised rhyming lyric is rap at its high energy and agit prop politicking best - and it really can work in a school hall with a few percussion items loaned by the music department.) Other Year Elevens were writing about moments in life they are still happy/angry/ frustrated about (football and otherwise), commentating on their own activities as they did them - one featured a girl's breathtaking gymnastic sequence and another a simulated football match when simply walking across the room would have done for the activity but nowhere near as well! Others were given 40 seconds simulated air time for a Five Live report on a game (action-packed last 10 minutes of Mansfield v Bristol City big screened without commentary) as per real time BBC journalists. I was impressed as always by the energy, commitment and prevailing youth of the English department and also the particular support of one of the only two males teaching the subject there. Being male, of course, he also had to set me anoraky questions all day about obscure links between his team , Sunderland, and my own, assuming I think that I had leisure to think about this and run the five hours of workshops in my 'spare' time! My own face (in a BBC Points West feature related to my work as Bristol City Poet In Residence) on a giant screen behind me as he introduced me to ranks of multiracial teenage faces from an entirely different community was a moment I'll remember with some amusement forever. I felt like a comedy dictator standing in front of potentially the least impressed audience in the world - teenagers. But Monty Python's 'Novel Writing From Dorchester' satire on the languages of commentary and expert summarising was funnier - and almost as funny as the recording I'd made of Alan Green of Five Live doing it for real in his screaming commentary on Beckham's World Cup qualifying equaliser against Greece. I left the school (in my Bristol City hat) on a real high, meeting a group of Asian lads, whom I'd worked with in the morning, outside Dudley Road tram station. Like most teenage groups, they seemed to fill the pavement with explosive energy as I passed, mobile phones and other techno-stuff whirring away, elbows and feet in everybody's way including their own. But this 'gang' offered handshakes, high fives and generous wins for Bristol against Wolves ('we 'ate the Wolves') the next day. (One, more thoughtfully, predicted a 1-1 draw - these things matter) But for me, whatever happened at Molineux the next day (I was there and it was indeed an exciting 1-1 draw), this for me was a big victory - away at West Brom and very much at home.

October 13, 2007

Alternative Poem Of The Month

You can read the proper one at my website.

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 07, 2007

Memory Almost Full

Paul McCartney's new album Memory Almost Full is like some of his early solo albums in that it's mostly just him and that it has seductive melodies. (Think Ram rather than Band of the Run). And it starts with a typical upbeat McCartney song where he is trying as so often to provide the soundtrack for a happy get together. (Birthday sort of thing, or Red Rose Speedway which latter - it also resembles in that it asks to be played over and over.) He accompanies himself on ukelele and this is probably a nod to George who always travelled with two – in case anyone could play with him. Hence the poignancy – Paul singing upbeat through the tears for George. This is 42 minutes of real album rather than the fifteen minutes of quality and fifty minutes of fillers that a CD usually is these days. But most of all, like Empire Burlesque the first album after Dylan's Born Again period, this is an album where someone known and loved dearly (though long since abandoned as a hopeless case) is urgently speaking to you again. The solutions - musical, lyrical, philosophical - are anything but glib, for all his facility with melody, music and words. This isn't just a musician who can do anything - we knew that and it isn't enough on its own. This is a record with something that needs to be said. I had long ago given up buying Macca albums - London Town, Tug of War - that flattered to deceive. One great heart-gripping track, wings taking off over the Mull of Kintyre and then lots of empty chirping. So I checked very carefully before buying this one. The truth is, as Yeats put it, only an aching heart/ Conceives a changeless work of art" and Macca's heart is certainly aching in every beat and note of this album. Bereavement, loss, a lifetime singing through the tears (more of these actually than most, for all his happy and positive outlook) , and most important of all some hard-earned wisdom, they're all here. And God he can still sing and play like an angel. I'd like him to know I heard what he was saying here and that it touched me very deeply but I don't have his address. So I'm thanking him here. For this and all the other bits of my life he's added a soundtrack to. Life is going to get us all in the end but the only way to go down is the way Macca does- singing.

August 25, 2007

Floodlit at Brentford

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

Reviews From My Edinburgh Run

Well I'm back from my first ever Fringe and now I need a holiday. I got one 'proper' review from Three Weeks - which caned me and which inferred from it that I wanted to cane my charges! - and four audience reviews, which were much kinder.

Gareth Calway: Tales Out Of School
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) *
You will remember this
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 CafĂ© – 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:
(a) pupils
(b) teachers
(c) targets
(d) parents
(e) rivals

Driftwood is now the most comprehensive
(a) failure
(b) school
(c) test
(d) haystack
(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
(a) 2009
(b) cheating
(c) data-manipulation
(d) cribbing
(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!

Star Teacher

Look at the sky, child.
That's Sirius (the Dog),
Orion (the Hunter),
There's the Plough.
That's how, according to our lights,
We know.

Now reach.

August 06, 2007

Show Review

The first review of my show!

Tales Out Of School
05 Aug 2007
Reviewer: Wendy Baker, United Kingdom

"An hour well spent, will appeal to anyone who has been to school."

July 27, 2007

Observations on The Observer's observations


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

Press Release For Edinburgh Fringe

Gareth Calway

Roman Eagle Lodge 3-12 August 12 noon daily. Tickets £7, concessions £5


A funny and fond farewell to a teaching career; this is a rehearsed reading of published work from the poet and schooldays novelist, Gareth Calway. The poetry combines his comic touring show Marked For Life with more recent work published in Exile In His Own Country.

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 Guardian

"...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"
New Times

"...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..."
The Teacher

" hilarious gallery of colourful characters from trendy teachers to Old School Tartars..."
Eastern Daily Press Review Section

"...An authentic report from the chalk-face..."
Peterloo Poets

"...hilarious tour de force..."
New Times

"...'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

Review of Margot's Guinevere

Words like 'fantastic' and 'brilliant' are used all the time in our 'overcelebration of underachievement' culture. When a really high quality production of really demanding material ike this comes along, there are no words left. But anyone who performed in that production will tell you, it was a class act. I loved it. The unreal chemical beauty of Candy, the real beauty of Margot/Guinevere, the eco-warrior spiritual beauty of Elaine in her wasteland, the joy of the real Joy (when she's finally found) were all there. The quiet dignity of Sir Lancelot, the inarticulate but rugged presence of Owain/Arthur (the king of the streets), the tormented magic of Merlay/Merlin, the etherealism of the Lady of the Lake, the fabulous fury of the rioters, the fraught parenting of Jade and West, not to mention the convincing political scheming of the latter in the legend and in the school and of course the old school Headmaster, out of his depth: all were there in bold profusion. And many other performances and touches too numerous to mention here. And a genuine 'company' spirit with everyone putting heart and soul into the ensemble. Why oh why do we only get a first night? It was a terrific first night but by the third night it would have been flying.
If you were in it, or saw it, and read this, let me know what you thought here.

June 10, 2007

Margot's Guinevere

Smithdon School Drama Production

At Princess Theatre, Hunstanton
From 7:00pm
Price: £5.00/£2.50 under 16's
For tickets or further information, please contact the venue directly. The information given on this page is subject to change - please confirm with the venue before travelling.
About a hundred years ago (actually December 1991), I started to write a play with a group of teenagers in King's Lynn. They had just performed my play 'Getting On' as the annual production at King Edward VII High School where I was Head of Drama.  There is nothing like a play. And sometimes you get a big monster smash hit of a play out of nowhere and almost everybody loves you except the caretaker and especially the kids. After all, they are finally getting what education only talks abut: complete focus on them. Under lights. With applause. 'Getting On' was just such a hit. Producing it consumed all my time and energy and was a lot more exciting than marking the register, setting unpleasant homework and telling kids off and of course I wanted it to continue forever. That was how Margot's Guinevere started. Unfortunately it never finished.

This time I wanted it to be about them, now. I also wanted it to be about King Arthur. And I wanted it to reflect the theatrical realities of most school drama - more girls than boys can act. Exactly the reverse of the average playscript. I needed a play with lots of big parts for girls. So gradually I came up with a play about modern teenagers on a modern 'problem' estate ('Corbenic' - the wasteland) whose school is putting on a play about King Arthur, with big parts for Guinevere, Morgan le Fay etc.

Sounds good - but easier said than done. It was so huge it made Ben Hur look like a two hander. There were - as the wardrobe mistress noted waspishly - "twenty three long dresses needed for scene seven alone!"

Well, I ran 53 ninety minute after school rehearsals and eventually put on a 70 cast epic two hour show that ran for five nights and made a lot of money. The audiences were sell outs because of the previous play's success and because the cast was so huge that the relatives alone accounted for half the population of Lynn. The original impetus - to have a schoolgirl transform into Guinevere in front of the audience's eyes through the magic of theatre- did come through. I remember one preview in assembly where suddenly Arthur's knights in full gear rose from their places and became kings and queens. But there was too much complexity and, to cut a long story short (as I couldn't bear to do) I was still rewriting it fifteen years later.

A couple of years after the play's second production, (another school in King's Lynn put it on, rewritten but still unfinished, and directed brilliantly by Joan Evans) I became director of youth theatre at The Princess Theatre, Hunstanton. I rewrote the play continually, in between productions, work-shopping it again with this new smaller and very talented groups of players. One of these players was Vicky Sykes. She is now producing it for what will be its third public production on June 23, 2007. She would have been too young for the Princess junior drama group when I was started writing it with those senior pupils at KES in Lynn. Now she's running the show!

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 Today

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?

- Love.

May 06, 2007

Sheer poetry!!!

Bristol City
Bristol City are promoted to the Championship.

Coca-Cola Football League One : Table
05 May 16:57



2Bristol City4615533520105828192485

4Nottm Forest461454371798628242482

12Port Vale461238352663142939-160
20Leyton Orient466107303265123145-1651


never tire of looking at it!

May 05, 2007

Arthur Milton (Poem of the Month, May 2007)

Arthur Milton.

(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

Homage to PG Wodehouse

I'm just getting to the end of Uneasy Money by PG Wodehouse. I have recently read his Leave It To Psmith (1923) , Summer Lightning (1929) Thank You Jeeves the first full length Jeeves and Bertie novel (1934), along with several giggling re-reads of the classic J. and B. short stories. They must be the best convalascent reads on the planet. It strikes me that Uneasy Money, in particular, but all of them really, have all of the coincidences and complications of a Thomas Hardy novel, only they are comic instead of tragic. After all, we all get enough of the former at home and work. Wodehouse for me is Hardy's smiling twin, his dialectical opposite. The grim realist dystopian George Orwell (an unexpected admirer of Wodehouse) wrote that Bertie Wooster, if he ever existed, was probably killed in the trenches sometime during the First World War. Sad and true. But thank God Wodehouse didn't let that get in the way of an imperishable story.

April 16, 2007

Tales Out Of School- A Retired Teacher Lets It All Out

Below is my publicity shot for the Edinburgh Fringe. It was taken by Si Barber for the TES at Hunstanton Funfair. Note the highbrow fringe. The show is about someone who after twenty seven years of telling teenagers off and giving them work to do that they really don't want to do finally gets the chance to leave school and get a life. I'm doing nine nights in a row instead of my usual dozen first night nerves every one night stand series but hoping it will all be more than a nine day wonder because I'm looking to turn it into a serious tour. The plan is that the Star Club in Hamburg books me for a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, then that a young businessman named Epstein decides that an Edinburgh fringe and a cute suit will widen my appeal. After that, a booking at the Oasis club Manchester, a national tour, Garethmania and the Big Break in America via the Ed Sullivan show etc. One thing I will NOT do is play Sunday Night At The London Palladium by command of Her Majesty or accept an MBE. Oh all right, Ma'am, Brian, if you think it will help book sales...

April 13, 2007

April Poem Of The Month

Look, I have come through

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, quivering


March 20, 2007

My site has been rebuilt and relaunched by a genius.It is now almost ready and you can have a look at it. This is the URL for my website proper:

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

March 06, 2007

Soccer chants are ancient history

Press cutting from the TES

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

Workshop At Milborne First School, Dorset, Friday March 2

Ah! if only all schools were like this. The Head told me he believes that the prerequisite of all learning is that the child is happy. Very good, I thought, they all say that. But this learning environment really was a happy one. Set in a wonderful Wessex wold a few miles north of Weymouth, this well-appointed and extremely well resourced new school had a welcoming Wessex air. It wasn't just the setting or the (unusually spacious and well-purposed) modern building, it was that not only the children but the staff seemed happy in their work. I did not hear a negative whisper all day and that includes all the various support staff! Is it something in the water down Wessex way I wonder? Children got on with their work with happy enthusiasm. Staff also seemed to all like their classes, each other and their Head!! (Like I said, this is rare!). I also liked all the classes, aged between 4-9, all young enough to call me "Gareth" and show me their work with grinning pride, some so young they called me "Author". "Bye bye Author" as I left will be an enduring memory.

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

February Poem of the Month


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

City Go On The Attack


(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

January Poem Of The Month

Sending Coventry

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

In Time of Warne

In Time Of Warne

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

Anthem for a Doomed Series

Anthem for a Doomed Series: Melbourne, Dec 2006-12-28

(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.