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I’m reading at the Maryport Settlemnent on Saturday 29th September, as part of the celebration of the moment, fifty nine years ago (in 1959), when Cumberland poet Norman Nicholson met painter Percy Kelly, in this very place.

There are events throughout the Saturday, and on the Friday. My part is two-fold. A bit part in the morning’s event with Brian Chaney of the Norman Nicholson Society, who will concentrate on Norman’s poems, and a bitter part as one of the lunchtime poets (from 12.30 till 2.00pm) at which I’ll do a set of around 20 minutes.

It’s always difficult at events like this to know what to read. There’s a fashion at regular poetry readings for writers, for poets to present their most ‘famous’ works, and their most recent.  The thing about recent work, whether it’s poetry or prose, is that we think it’s our best (weeks, months – possibly days – later, of course, we think something else is, and not necessarily something written since!).

There was a plan for me to read alongside the late (great) Nick Pemberton, but as you probably know, he passed away earlier this month. There’s a gap nobody will be filling! So among the poems I’ll be reading will be ones that I think Nick liked, or would have liked. There’s a sort of signature poem too – which is as near as I get to that ‘famous’, and yes, one or two ‘recent’ poems, that may, or may not be ‘the best’.

I mentioned in a blog a few posts back, the story of literary critic Cyril Connolly and his ambition manque – to write something that would last ten years. If he had, one must imagine, it might well have been his ‘best’, but would he have recognised it at the time, or even thought so ever after? 


I was cheering The Archers this week. Out there in the Borsetshire Triangle strange, subversive events are unfolding. The rich kids of the eponymous family are taking work out of the hands of the poverty stricken Emma and Ed. The depiction of Ed and Emma’s struggle to get by on a low income has been well handled, and the plotline, in which Josh gets offered £30 per week to help out with the Carter-Tucker hens is all the more delicious because Neil Carter is, of course, Emma’s dad – an innocent abroad, offering his daughter the odd £10 hand out to stave off starvation, while the comfortably-off Josh gets what all good rich kids deserve – more money! At least we know he won’t be forced to spend it on anything boring, like food and shelter. I’m looking forward to the day when, with the backing of the guileless but loaded Peggy, Josh, in partnership with Tom Namesake, the acceptable face of rapacious free market trading, drives both Neil and Hayley out, and the entire Tucker-Carter clan, shoeless and wrapped in threadbare blankets will be forced to seek shelter, hopefully on Christmas eve, in the dark stews of Borchester. A Dickension Christmas then, in Ambridge, to look forward to.

Radio Four also came up with the goods in respect of an interview with the dapper octogenarian Tom Wolfe, he of Bonfire of the Vanities, which has had the odd mention on this blog before. It was great to hear the old guy tell us what was what in the world of American writing, and who was who, or even whom! My favourite line was about young Ameerican writers in the post Second World War period: They were taught to write like Frenchmen, and did their best. Who are we being taught to write like, and, from a purely personal perespective, not least by me? Worth giving this one a run on Eye Player if you dothat sort of thing.

While I’m on the BBC, I might as well mention how irritating I find it when that great and much loved organisation is reporting its own achievements, and/or misdemeanours, that it refers to itself in the Third Person. Stalin was fond of this practice too, and the comparison is not reassuring. Why can’t they settle for saying we? Do they really think we don’t realise they are talking about themselves as they read out their various navel gazing news items?

You’re getting this blog post a day early this week, because I’m slotting it in between appearances at the Maryport Literary Festival, at the Senhouse Roman Museum. I’ve just come back from the Poetry Lunch. Grevil Lindop & Carola Luther had run workshops during the morning session, and lead the readers in an afternoon of poetry. It’s amazing how much talent we have in all sorts of genres, poetic, prosaic and dramatique in the county – something, I suspect, that we have in common with the rest of the UK, rather than separating us from it! Here’s a roll call of our readers, in no particular disorder: Sue Banister (with one ‘n’, note!), Joanne Weeks, Mike Baron, Mark Carson (who was Highly Commended TWICE in the poetry competition, and Sue Kindon (who WON the aforesaid competition), and Martin Chambers, who also ran; Sam Smith (publisher of The Journal), Chris Pilling, Jacci (got it right that time) Garside, who, like BHDandMe has several identities – but none, I hope, in crisis -, Hazel Stewart, Zoe Thomson, reading one of spouse Hugh’s poems, Gillian Greggain, Michael Bohling (hope I’ve got that right), Ann Ward, Charles Woodhouse, and Angela Locke. Several fine poets sat it out! Malcolm Carson among them! Uncle Tom Cobley and All – the all included Mick North who turned up with a sheaf of Fire Cranes – if you can have a ‘sheaf’ of them? As always, from this marvellous mix of voices, a sort of harmony, rather than a discord, emerged. A tremendous lunch was served, seemingly without effort – because its all done out of sight – by Jayne and her wonderful staff at the museum. A good thing to be involved with whether you’re in the procession or swelling the scene. Another swell at the scene was the inimitable Mary Birkett, to whom respect, as they say, or said… And tomorrow………