Salt of the Earth

Lynda dropped me off at the church to say goodbye to John. We had a bit of diffulty finding the place. It’s a rough part of town. A few yards from St. Benedicts, I didn’t make way for another motorist quite as fast as he thought I should have done and he wound down his window to snarl something I didn’t catch that ended with, ‘. . . you fucking werewolf.’ It made me smile at the time (from the safety of our car) and I thought, ‘Yeah, well, I suppose I do.’ What a thoroughly unpleasant chap, though, what?

John would have been proud of his children. Mary gave a terrific eulogy in her father’s honour. Her description of her dad’s character described exactly the man I knew. Those two things don’t always match so perfectly. It goes to show what a genuine bloke John Waters was.

As always with funerals, there was a comical dimension. Look, landmates, I’m not a catholic – I ain’t anything as far as religion is concerned – and I was hoping to slip into the back of the church where I wouldn’t intrude or stick out like the proverbial swollen thumb. But, when I got there, the church was packed out. A tribute to people’s regard for Johnie. I heard the usher say to a woman in front of me, ‘Are you going up stairs?’ She said, ‘No.’ and went off into the church. So I said to the fella, ‘I’d like to go up stairs, please.’ He looked puzzled, ‘You want to go upstairs?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I said. He asked me again, ‘Upstairs?’ I said, ‘Yes, please.’ He said, ‘Do you know it’s for the choir?’ I’m glad he questioned it. Anyway, I ended up on the right-hand side of the church right up the front. I felt mega uncomfortable.

My social plight was compounded when I realised that the usher, had neglected to give me an order of service booklet. This was, no doubt, because it had thrown him so completely off key having a complete stranger – and a werewolf, too boot – asking if he could join the choir.

The opening hymn was announced which everybody read from their booklets. But, hey, The priest had also given the number of the hymn in the hymn book, a copy of which I had picked up on the way in. Fine, except the words in the hymn book were different to the lyrics in the booklet.

The mass was of a high kind with three men in robes and a robed altar boy ringing a bell. As the service went along, I was able to lose myself in the ritual and the smell of the incense and the intoning of the priests and the singing of the choir and congregation and their calls and answers and the poems of the scriptures. A real sense of peace came over the place.

There were tears, of course. The death of a loved one is painful. Like I say in ‘Talking Revolution’, nobody really ever wants to die. Even those couples who buy one single and one return ticket to Switzerland would prefer to the ill partner to be well again and get two return tickets instead. If you are distressed enough, and there is no turning back the clock, death can appear as sweet release, that’s all.

Mary’s moving tribute to her dad made me very glad I went. There is a great comfort in religion for believers.

Emily came round today to put some cello on two new pieces of mine. Have I mentioned this new work I am doing? I really must start reading my own blog. Ian Banks of Atoll-UK, on behalf of Spaces, has commissioned 6 artists, of which I am one, to respond to Cheshire’s Weaver Valley and Winsford Waterfront regeneration.

Ian is a top geezer to work with. He is helpful in the utmost without ever trying to get you to conform to an agenda of his own. So many of these commissioners (and, unfortunately, you don’t know who you are) try to turn you into themselves-as-artist. Not so, with Ian. Consequently, he gets a better result from everybody.

My way into the Weaver project was through an article I read that explained Cheshire’s salt deposit is the remains of a triassic sea. In other words, 250 million years ago, Cheshire was ocean. That’s fascinating to me – the Cheshire salt is the cinders of a burnt up sea. I did a couple of field trips, talked to people and did a load of rooting about in museums and libraries and, under the title of ‘Songs of the Triassic Sea’, I have written 4 lyric poems, each set in a different epoch of the Weaver Valley and Winsford Waterfront:

i) The Ballad of Old Salt (phantasy of pre-history and the spirit of the sea)
ii) Ram Your Spike (a worksong/shanty of open pan salt making)
iii) In Winsford Town (a contemporry pastoral)
iv) Over and Under (a prophesy foretelling the rebirth of Old Salt)

The first is a dramatic monologue which I am still working on. The other three pieces are finished so far as the text is concerned but I have some musicical settings, and that’s what me and Emily were putting together. I am hoping to road test ii) and iii) individually at the Coachmakers before I schedule a special evening performance for the complete work.

Phil Johnson dropped in today, too. We ended up playing some English dance tunes: me guitar, Lynda tambourine, Phil mandolin, Emily cello: Jenny’s Reel, Tiger Smith’s Jig, Speed the Plough . . . The rafters was ringing, doods. What a dandy way to spend an afternoon. Lynda baked some currant scones and brewed up lashing of tea. And that’s what I’m gonna do any minute now – have some more of the ol’ fruit of the Beko oven courtesy of the Tambourine Lady. Just in case you are getting the wrong idea about my domestic life, please note that I cooked tea tonight.

I’ll post the Songs of the Triassic Sea lyrics as soon as they have been officially presented to Ian. It wudna bey rayt, as they say in Stoke, to do it beforehand.

I’ve started reading David Copperfield again. It’ll go nicely with the cup of Rosie Lee.

Oh, yeah, before I shoot off, Tatton Park, RHS show: Cheshire Life have done a little feature on it. My mugshot made the online version, but they must have thought it a vision too far for their more-sensitive hard-copy readers cuz it was cut from that. Here’s the link:!–197897

Oh, yeah an’ all, Shooting Stars is back on the telly. See? Life ain’t all bad, are it?

See you later, folks.

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