Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Celestial beds, masters of the universe and urban myths

I've been reading an excellent debut collection of poetry over the last few days by Yorkshire poet, Gaia Holmes. It's superbly titled, Dr James Graham's celestial bed and it's a collection which finds magic in the mundane and the everday. It touches on subjects such as burger bars, catholic folk magic and the inerring intelligence of our canine friends. The language is rich and accesible and I really can't reccomend it enough. Go buy it, it's great and so is Gaia. She's one of my Myspace friends and she left me a poem on my page that she wrote about her old dog Wolfie for my own elderly dog Barney. For a flavour of what she's about I'll repost it on the end of this waffle.
According to today's Daily Express apparently political correctness has gone so stark raving bonkers that even the annual fumble at the Christmas office party is now under threat ! No more photocopying of bottoms, no more drunken stumbles to the birdie song with the keraazzzy guys from accounts, no more telling that obnoxious middle-manager exactly what you think of him after four bottles of Babycham and a large Baileys. I'm not sure what all the details of the story are but it has something to do with fear of litigation in case your employees don't get home safely at the end of the festivities. We live in a litigious society don't we ? Well actually, no we don't. The number of compensation claims both brought to court and found in favour of the person making the claim have stayed pretty consistent since the early 1960s in the UK. It's one of those "we're all going to the dogs" urban myths put about by people who like to think that everything has been rubbish since the nasty "liberal establishment" (who they ?) got put in charge of running things. Most of it is unsubstantiated bitterness from people who long ago lost the argument. Don't believe half of it, and take the other half with a large pinch of salt (low sodium of course). One of the funniest of these kind of stories I heard recently was that poppy sellers were not allowed to attach the poppy to the lapel of the person buying it for fear of pricking them. This story has all the hallmarks of the nutty fringe. Nice old veterans who just want to be polite cowed by political correctness and fear of litigation. What's wrong with the world (Foam, gnash, froth at the mouth, bring back Enoch etc) !?? So I thought I'd check this out for myself. I went straight to the British Legion and asked them what the policy was. It turned out there was no such policy. Sellers were entirely free to attach poppies to buyers, in fact they were positively encouraged to do so. With this joyous news I wandered down to Acomb shops and asked the nice old man in his beret and medals to put the poppy on my jacket lapel which he duly did after I'd dropped a few pound coins in his collecting box. We exchanged a few words had a chuckle about the urban myth, I thanked him for his efforts and we left each other smiling. What's more I got a couple of stories out of it as well. The fear of litigation and imaginary demons on every street corner makes us put self-imposed limitations on our lives and expectations. Always try and find out the facts and don't take tabloid screaming headlines at face value. They usually have an agenda to advance which frequently gets in the way of the truth. As for office parties, I fully intend to enjoy mine. I will be putting a party hat on the dog, whilst playing a self-compiled party mix CD and dancing around the back bedroom office on my own. I think I'll cook sausage rolls as well. If it all gets messy I will be suing myself for wilful neglect before lying down in a dark room to dream of the good old days of rickets, shared outside privvies and tuberculosis.
Continuing my weird period of actually getting on with stuff I've been talking about for years, I'm just about to start applying for a place on a MA course in Creative Writing to begin next October. I've been making excuses for not doing it for about three years now - lack of cash, lack of time etc, but they've all been dissolved. After a bit of nagging from relations over the weekend I've decided that there really are no excuses anymore and I've got to go for it. Stepping out of my comfort zone is never something I find particularly easy, but there are times when you just have to go for it. So that's what I'm doing. Wish me luck ;-)
Here's that poem I was telling you about :

LIVING WITH A GENIUS. (by Gaia Holmes)

My dog doesn't take drugs.
He can get high on the scent
of march tulips,
levitate above the park
pissing from the heavens
and trailing his toes
over the heads
of Greek gods.

He can read messages
in the wet maps
that stain the pavements,
check the weather on a lamp post,
scan the news on the leg of a bench.

My dog knows
how to chase a ball,
skin a rabbit,
catch a stick,
grout the tiles,
remove butter stains
from delicate fabrics,
spell his name backwards,
say 'thank you'
in 36 different languages
and change engine oil
without spilling a drop.

My dog reads Heidegger
and Wittgenstein
when I go to work,
studies cryogenics and metaphysics,
corrects my poems with red biro,
underlines punctuation errors,
suggests better line breaks.

My dog can catch ghosts,
snap the spines of evil spirits
and scare away burglars
with his intellectual wit.

1 comment:

Alex Bordessa said...

Love the doggie poem :-)

Have a good office party. I was intending to have some more mulled wine for mine, except my stomach seems to be throwing a wobbler over the first batch :-( My office is in a back bedroom too. Unfortunately it over looks the bird-ridden garden. Oh, it's like a soap-opera out there ;-)

Good luck with applying for the MA in Creative Writing. I toyed with doing one too, but ultimately don't fancy it yet (not committed enough to writing in general at present). I'd ask where you're applying, but perhaps you won't want to say.