iamhyperlexic

Contemporary short fiction, poetry and more

Monthly Archives: October 2017

#MeToo

I grew up in North Leeds, and my parents were lawyers.  That might sound like privilege, and, of course, with regard to food, clothing, education, housing, it was.  But morally and philosophically, it was hell.

Jesus cannot save the atheist/non-conformist children of North Leeds.  They are on their own.

My parents believed in two fundamental things. They believed that the justice system was capable of working, as long as every individual within it on the states’s side showed the required degree of integrity. (What about The Guildford Four and The Birmingham Six? Never mind.)  They also believed in engagement.  They believed that every incidence of wrong-doing should be reported by everybody, everywhere, forever, without exception.

A working justice system has many ingredients.  But engagement is the most fundamental of these ingredients.

Somebody has to say, ‘I have suffered a wrong.’

That is the main reason why I hate Savile.  He used his status to set up a power structure that would have absolutely appalled my parents.

The only rational, sane, just reaction to ‘I have suffered a wrong,’ is, ‘What wrong have you suffered?’

Not, ‘Well, you see, he raises a lot of money for this unit.  If he comes round, it may be a good idea to pretend to be asleep.’

No.

The most valuable commodity in the world is justice.   Would I rather starve than have justice?  If I don’t have enough food, then I don’t have justice.

Let’s start with reporting of the violent and exploitative wrong-doing of privileged men, and then we’ll go on from there.

Who knows where that might take us.

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Review: Catch A Falling Star at Cluntergate Centre, Horbury 13/10/2017

I arrived late, at about 5 past 7, when a young man with a guitar was singing and playing.  I took him to be Louis James.  He began a cover version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’.  There was a fairly long and tinkly guitar intro, which led me to believe that this would be one from the  Jeff Buckley school.  And so it came to pass.  I am absolutely allergic to bad cover versions of ‘Hallelujah’, by Leonard Cohen.  They make me come out in terrible running sores, all over my bozzolikons.  This was a good cover version.  When he sang ‘All I ever learnt from love / was how to shoot at someone who outdrew yer’ the hair stood up on the back of my neck.  It sounded like an impersonation of Jeff Buckley, but it was a very good impersonation.  Louis James (if I have got your name right): why don’t you try a freer version?

A splendid build-up, in the Cluntergate Centre.  I get to walk to this place, from where I live.  I may be an outsider (I come from bloody Leeds) but this is my centre.

The next performer was Halima Mayat.  I know Halima from, among other things, the Black Horse Poets.  Halima is part of the spoken word scene in Wakefield.

She opened with a poem that she said had been written during a workshop with someone called ‘Gen’.  I have sent my spies out throughout the north of England, and the best they can come up with for a suspect called ‘Gen’, is Geneviève Walsh, of, among other things, Spoken Weird in Halifax.  It was a poem about bi-polar disorder, called, ‘Tin of Hot Dogs’.  It was a very good example of how to use an everyday object as a metaphor for mental states.

Halima’s next set of pieces were based on fairy tales: Rapunzel, and Little Red Riding Hood.  These were modernist treatments of classic stories.

‘The Dark of The House’ was a chilling poem.  ‘Betrayal’ was an angry poem.

As a listener, I still find Halima’s poetic persona tantalising, but, from this performance, I learnt a great deal about her.  It was an excellent performance.  Halima held the room (there were 40+ people there – that is a serious room).  Her microphone technique was very good.  She got tumultuous applause, as well she deserved.

Stefan Grieve and Ralph Dartford appeared under the name ‘Specky & Specky’.

Stefan and Ralph performed 8 pieces.  Ralph did a piece about domestic violence, and relationship breakdown, which began, “There’s indentations in this chipboard wall…”  Stefan rhymed “Fill ya” with “thrill ya”, and “dyspraxic” with “sarcastic”.

Stefan also said, “Don’t let your pain be a stranger to those who can help,” which is a summary of the whole evening.

Ruby Macintosh wears spectacles and an A-line dress.  She evokes the 1950s.  She can really sing.  She plays an amplified acoustic guitar.  She has excellent technique in both hands.  That is not something that I say, often.

‘Raspberry, Strawberry, Gooseberry Jam’ was a tour de force.  Never mind the vocal and instrumental technique, in perfect unison.  The subject matter of the song is about life choices.  It is a kind of poetry that I would normally associate with Brian Patten, Roger McGough, or Stevie Smith.

Ruby Macintosh is as good as Eddi Reader.  Possibly, better, because she doesn’t have a backing band.

Nathan Birkinshaw did a routine that was partly about repetition.  He was telling a joke about a man who walks into a bar.  It involved a certain amount of lying on his back on a table, and shouting.  I am not keen on shouting.  There was a barmaid.

His funniest line, in my opinion, was, with reference to this chap in joke land, and the barmaid, “It’s later in the night, and they’re in bed.”

[There is an old 15 amp plug socket on the ceiling of the main hall in the Cluntergate Centre.  Don’t ask me how I know that.]

The last act on the bill was Jess Rowbottom, as The Bleeding Obvious.  She was, among other things, promoting her show, ‘Rainbow Heart’.  But this evening was all about the moment.

As a fan of Augustus Pablo, I am appalled at how Jess used the melodica.  To hell with that.  I am not appalled: I am encouraged.  There are new uses to which the melodica can be put, and The Bleeding Obvious is finding them.  More of that, please.

I am going to list some of the pieces that Jess performed, if for no other reason than I want her to know that I was listening:

  1. Life is Never As Straight as it Seems
  2. Not Dead, Yet
  3. Family Gathering
  4. Outside v Inside
  5. Wallflower
  6. Me, Myself, and I
  7. One Foot In Front Of The Other

It was #6 that did it, for me.  There was a sample from the old-fashioned speaking clock.  It went a bit Pet Shop Boys.  It went a bit Momus.  Jess briefly lost her place with the melodica, and had to count herself back in.  That was lovely.

If I have to crawl there on my hands and knees, I will put a blue plaque on the wall of Cluntergate Community Centre.  “13/10/2017 Jessica Rowbottom, rock star, performed here.”

It was partly about the keyboard playing.  It was partly about the vocals.  It was certainly about the hair.  But, mostly, it was about Jess.  With the playing, singing, and persona, she told us she was going to take us to a different place, and we acquiesced, and she did.

 

Stepping into Rickaro Books on Bookshop Day, 2017

The wife of my high school English teacher is a long time friend of the proprietor of my local, independent bookshop.

Christina James, crime novelist

Rickaro Books 2 Rickaro Books, Horbury

Yesterday was UK Bookshop Day, the annual event which celebrates the huge contribution made to civilised life by all British bookshops, especially independents.  It also marks the beginning of the current year’s ‘Books Are My Bag’ [BAMB] initiative for the run-up to Christmas and beyond.

The whole BAMB drive was conceived of and masterminded by the UK Booksellers Association, which now administers it.  Authors and readers alike are very fortunate to have, working on our behalf, this imaginative, dedicated, hard-working and amazingly small team of people led by Tim Godfrey, its long-term CEO.  I was lucky enough to attend, on 11th September, the BA’s annual conference and there to get a sneak preview of some of this year’s BAMB marketing material, which includes beautiful mugs and book bags designed by Orla Kiely.

I always visit at least one bookshop on Bookshop Day.  Yesterday I headed for…

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