Archive for the ‘Amlit’ Category

We went to our local library in Alsager for an hour this morning, on National Poetry Day in the UK, to see and listen to W Terry Fox read some poetry. I consider it well worth visiting that link to some YouTube performances. It was a fine way to spend time and Barbara also enjoyed it. He talked quite a bit about Mow Cop where he lived for a time and still lives “down bank” a bit at Whitehill.  The event attracted an audience of about a dozen, two of whom had travelled from Crewe. It was a free occasion, funded by the Friends of Alsager Library.

Poetry has always been a minor interest of mine, humming quietly along in the background to a life, ever since that A Level course in Eng. Lit. at school with good old “Gabby” Hayes where he introduced us to the beauty of John Keats’ work. Alongside many of his own fine poems, W Terry Fox read Keats’ Ode to Autumn today, (read and hear here) which took me right back to those days in that particular seat in that particular classroom, as clear as if  I were there now.

I remember those times with Gabby (middle row, second from the right) as a bejewelled island in a murky sea of dark drudgery and suffering from the rest of my schooldays. There were only four of us in the class, as I remember, which added to the privilege and sheer pleasure of coming from a bookless and often cheerless home to that highly skilled introduction to classic literature over two years that probably helped to nurture whatever semblance of sanity I ever had. Thanks Gabby and Thanks Terry.

Poetry in Chicago? Well, here’s a poem by








Robert Pinsky featured on the excellent website of The Poetry Foundation based there; from such a simple thing like the next time you put on a shirt or skirt, he has fashioned simple but resonant words.

Here’s the second piece of old furniture I have subjected to cleaning and polishing:

We bought it for £20 from an antique shop at Wolseley Bridge, Staffordshire when it looked like this

with a piece of brown, damaged lino inset into the top, coming loose. That’s the picture I sent to Ursula, the researcher at St. Bride Library to see if she could identify whether it was indeed a “newspaper lettering table” as a friend thought. She is going to show it to Nigel the librarian to help, as it does have a familiar look.

It has been a pleasant day in the garden doing the last part of the cleaning while listening to the 3rd day of the Test Match (cricket) against India. There can be few better ways of spending a Saturday afternoon in July. Good tip from the internet – clean Bakelite with Brasso.

Just as I had finished applying the first coat of finishing wax and brought it indoors, Julie next door came round with her delightful 2 and a half year old son Adam. I took him up the shed and showed him the bees coming to and going from their nest (hive?) under the floor, which he thought was amazing and great fun as we stood in their flight path, which of course it is.

The two literature classes I have become a member of are to start up again in September. The tutor of one has sent us the “syllabus” for hers, with the title Aspects of Empire with a reading list of works all completely new to me, which will take me where I’ve rarely been in terms of style and subject – Paul Theroux, Kowloon Tong, V S Naipaul, A Bend in the River, Paul Scott, The Jewel in the Crown, Leonard Woolf, The Village in the Jungle and Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal. Looking forward to all that. The other “tutor” – this isn’t strictly accurate as we all “volunteer” to contribute a paper or a short talk on something under our general theme – has suggested that I might like to do a presentation on the Beat Generation of writers. Our theme is American Literature 1940-1960 which should be great for me. I’ve revisited Howl already and bought the Penguin Portable Beat Reader. Hours and weeks of unadulterated pleasure there, then.

April already and not much to post about on the face of it so here’s a ramble. Formula operating today: (Hands dry and aching + dodgy back) = (decorating and gardening last few days) so recommendation is a day of rest in the hot sunshine / cool house of a peaceful Sunday afternoon. I agree with myself and am complying.

One hundred and twenty years of neglect and over-painting of seized-up study sash windows presents quite a challenge but investigating the state of the cord and weights was interesting. Replaced the cords, in the course of which one of the heavier weights from the larger window rolled off the sill ( daft place to leave it) onto my foot, picking out for special treatment the toe next to the big one which went blue, along with the air. Hopefully that’s the major wound which usually occurs at some point in my “projects”. Good to see the bare wood of the frame – hot air gun and Nitromors, lots of scraping and glass-paper. Back to it tomorrow with final sanding and white primer. Aaaaaah …………. relax.

Next door’s two primary age children E and J came round yesterday and helped with our gardening. We all enjoyed J’s skilled performance on my shoulders as he tied up the top of 4 canes to create the wigwam shape for the beans in the pot below. Not sure he totally enjoyed it though as he approved greatly of my fetching out the steps for him to do the next set of canes. Emma collected some more rainwater from our butt for her triops eggs experiment. I cooked a mushroom risotto from the recipe on the rice packet. I thought it was fine and B liked it better cold. E and J had a portion without any great enthusiasm, but it all went.

We have a date for B’s hip-replacement operation – May 11th, the day before son E has an interview for a job. Could be quite a week. While on medical matters, must remember my appointment on Bank Holiday Easter Monday to donate platelets. Even had a letter about it, urging donations in holiday times, when stocks get really low. Heard statistics on the radio recently showing that donations from black and Asian people are much lower proportionately than the rest of the UK population. Something cultural apparently.

Literature classes have come to an end until the Autumn. One will definitely resume, on the theme of “Empire”, which should be very interesting. News about what is happening with the other one is imminent, from two of the members charged with coming up with ideas and making premises arrangements. I missed the final session as it was B’s birthday and I wasn’t too sure it was happening anyway, but it turns out to have been the wonderful John Toft on Henry Miller. John has sent B and me another book he has written and in the accompanying letter he says he was disappointed not to hear my views on Miller and that everyone “pretended not to be shocked”!

Have received the second monthly Newsletter from the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust which I joined recently. It is a very good publication and this one features a 2 page spread on my local Reserve, Parrot’s Drumble. Must get there again soon, before the bluebells have all gone.

Time for lunch.

This morning Irma Kurtz did Something Understood on BBCRadio4 which she called Happy Accidents.  Having just woken up when it started I pricked up my ears and consciousness because I knew I had a book of hers downstairs called The Great American Bus Ride, which I had enjoyed very much, having traveled a few thousand miles on Greyhound buses myself back in the 1990s. When the programme was over I found my copy and sat with it over breakfast. After traveling with her for a few bus rides or so I found the receipt between the pages, from when I had bought the book. It was from Dillons in Oxford Street, 17 years ago in 1994, on 20th March, which is today’s date. Serendipity? Coincidence? Irma says this in the programme blurb:”Serendipity differs from mere coincidence – it doesn’t knock at the door and you can’t go out to look for it.”

I am really tired tonight but in a placid mood conducive to a bit of casual blogging without too much thought. It’s so much milder now after some severe frosts and the coal fire has created an almost sweltering temperature in this front room.

Gill from down the road came with me today to first session this year of our ‘America in the 30s’ adult education group.

It was my turn to make a contribution. I had been sort of ‘volunteered ‘ for it as John Toft thought I was an expert on William Faulkner. Anyway, I did my best with a long lead in to a consideration of As I Lay Dying, Sanctuary and Light in August, the latter being my favourite book of all time, if I was forced to choose one for a desert island.

I played Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech from a recording he made reading it, rather than the actual speech which was never recorded successfully for the public. I also played Rednecks by Randy Newman, which caused some consternation with his regular use of ‘nigger’ – the ‘n’ word as it was referred to!

Nobody seemed to have read the books except for the wonderful John Toft, which detracted somewhat from what I had hoped would be quite a lively discussion period. If nothing else, I think my enthusiasm for Faulkner’s writing got across and I hope it may have encouraged at least someone to give him a go, armed with some of the insights I offered, perhaps.

Had a visit from Ian, home for three weeks from his work in New Zealand. Much good conversation, news and gossip was exchanged which cheered B up a bit from her unwell miseries. Several cups of tea also featured, obviously.

Have received the annual gift of the Oxford American magazine from Liz in Pennsylvania.

Wonderful surprise from the backlog of deliveries by Royal Mail. Two Christmas cards accompanied it. Today is 13th January. Never mind, quite pleasant really to have surprise deliveries. I had become rather anxious a few days ago that some new USB-powered speakers would not make it here in time for my above-mentioned presentation, but they did and are an excellent £9’s worth. That apostrophe looks a bit odd but I think it’s right.