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.