ROBERT JOHNSON AN’ ME
He’s singing Last Fair Deal Gone Down. Every song the beautiful slender-fingered man ever recorded is mine for my delectation on 2-CDs. It’s been a great Christmas. I got some new boots too, so I’m all set up for the New Year. Lynda’s asleep and the house seems to echo emptiness now that Amy and Dave have gone back south.
I’ve acquired the body shape of Mr Pickwick. My old frame has suffered some major dietary abuse, over the past few days, in the form of whiskey, whisky, gin and cakes and cakes and gin and whisky and whiskey, but my much-depleted finances reassure me that this bloated frame will only be temporary. Just as well. Another few days of it and I’ll have to use a mirror to see which shoes I’m wearing.
The addition of the fabulous Ms. Emily Louise Tellwright on cello to Adam and my music-making is official and the way it is from now on. We are rambling 3-dom road, doods. ACW and me half-heartedly called ourselves Up to Scratch at first – you have to tag your product. We are now called: StringFing.
Emily told me that she met a fella from Heymaker days who has requested we do Please Don’t Drop Your Bombs On Me when he comes to see us at the Coachmakers on Wednesday January 6th. Yeah, oh yeah. Thanks dood. I’ll be pleased to do that song again. Especially now we are graced with the cello. There was a group of soldiers who turned up at the Arts Centre whenever they were on leave – I’m talking 1980s here – who always requested that song and sang along with it knowing the words as well as I did. I was curious about that. It’s anti all that stuff. They said, ‘But it’s about NUCLEAR war, man. No soldier likes nuclear war.’ Fair do.
Meant to tell you a while ago: my friend Liz Almond has another collection of poetry out. She is gentle and wise. Her new collection is called Yelp. Give it a read or four or five. It gets better with rereading like all good poetry does. Yelp is, as is said, available from all good bookshops. Liz was my personal tutor at uni. Read her poetry and you will know how lucky I was to have her as a mentor.
January’s issue of Cheshire Life has given half a page to me and my poem Homage to Cheshire. It rounds off my two years as Poet Laureate for the county. It’s the end of the scheme too. I suppose I could carry on calling myself Cheshire Poet Laureate until such time as the scheme is revived and I am officially replaced. However, enough is enough.
Although the people in the Cheshire Arts Service who inherited the project from the remarkable Liz Newall did not have her vision, commitment and flair and basically did bugger all that was positive beyond handing me the crown and a smooth handful of dosh (for which I am honestly grateful), the appointment has been brilliant for and to me. My 2010 diary bears testament to it’s ongoing benefit as the poetry gigs are rolling in. Once I sussed the lack of support I just got on with it myself and made it happen.
A few weeks ago, I hosted the awards evening of a poetry competition on behalf of de Winter PR for Adoption Matters North West at the Bank of America in Chester – have I mentioned that? I can never remember – I also delivered Mending Nets, the poem Adoption Matters commissioned me to write. I met two terrific poets there: Gladys Mary Coles and Jim Bennett. You should check them out. Terrific people too. Both of them are characters. Famous around Merseyside. You have to be good to be noticed up there. Jim’s into English trad too. Like me, he makes music as well and has a CD due to be launched soon. Google it, why don’t you?
Jim noticed that I wasn’t (as he delicately put it) ‘widely published’ as a poet and very kindly mentioned me to a good man in the publishing business who connected me up with another good man who expressed interested in my stuff. But do you know what? I let it go, doods. I had a bit of an epiphany.
I ain’t an ambitious sort of a geezer – except when it comes to playing guitar in front of an audience when I am often a little over-ambitious – and I know I should push myself more in order to cement meself into a more comfortable position, but I can honestly say that I am happiest when I am doing my stuff locally. Community above celebrity every time, mates. Communal riches above personal wealth. That philosophy don’t always seem so groovy when my small harvest of food is being carried down the conveyor belt towards the great yawning gob of a Tesco till. It’s the creed I got, though, and it’ll do for me. Are you all right with your packing, sir?
Yeah, I would like more gigs as StringFing, more gigs as W dot poet-fella, more gigs as the Woodlanders Country Dance Trio (yeah that’s a threesome too these days) and more gigs with the other combos, assortments and liaisons life has fitted me up with but, above all, I’d like them to be local.
As far as the future publishing of my poetry is concerned, I will do it myself. That way I will have full editorial control. Never again will I allow myself, if I can possibly escape it, to be in position where someone like Ms. Sherman of the Arts Service can interfere with my text.
On the subject of publishing, me and Dave Wright went up to the Old Man of Mow and the castle yesterday. Dave took some more of his black and white photos for our Village Verse project – his foties, my pomes. Mow is my favouritest place. Inspires me every time. It’s got a unique and special vibe. Anyway, with luck, and provided I can get the gold together, 2010 will be the year Village Verse actually gets printed. Mind you, we’ve been working on it on and off for about eight years so I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Reading Village Verse and talking about Mow Cop is a gig in itself. I have done it a couple of times. The last one being at the beginning of 2009 for the U3A, Alsager Civic Hall. I love doing it and I plan to use Dave’s photos from the collection projected on the wall for future Village Verse gigs.
Hey, Robert Johnson has loved in vain and gone silent until tomorrow. I must get some sleep too. May no hellhounds get on your trail.