Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

IN THE GARDEN

There’s much to be said for manual labour, and high among its virtues is the role it plays as an antidote to writing, which is, by its very nature, sedentary.
Anyone who has a garden will be familiar with the physical chores that accompany the changing seasons and it’s my good fortune to still have the energy and enthusiasm to engage in most of them.
My wife, Jane, is the horticulturalist in our home and I function as her assistant, providing brute force when required.
Our garden is largely her creation, a credit to her vision and expertise and a wonderfully peaceful retreat.
Now and again it inspires a poem. 



LADDER

A steel ladder spears the old tree,
a centurion’s silver blade
driven up through green foliage.

No mercy cut this; husbandry
requires minor amputations.

We choose gnarled branches, lop and saw.

One holds the ladder while, above,
the other cuts and passes down
dead limbs,
like ancient manuscripts
with hieroglyphs of bird and bone. 



Click here for Van Morrison singing In The Garden




Saturday, 26 September 2015

OLD GHOSTS

I’m about to make a return visit to Northern Ireland, home of my childhood and, as always on such occasions, ghosts await me.
Looking back on the Nineteen-Fifties, there can be no doubt that children enjoyed an innocence and freedom denied to youngsters today.
In many ways my formative years were idyllic ones but, in the Calvinist environment of Fifties Ulster, even the most innocuous activities held the potential for condemnation by those stern Presbyterian adults who policed our childish world.  

 

JUDGEMENT

They taught me to imagine it
as standing in some lofty hall
while some austere, almighty Judge
would stare at jottings on the chit
I’d brought with me: a hasty scrawl
of  awkward facts I couldn’t fudge,
then, with abrupt, dismissive ire,
condemn me to eternal fire.

I’ve spent my life unlearning things:
discovering that black was white
and vice versa; that we don’t get
happy-ever-after endings;
that things don’t always turn out right;
but somehow this grim childhood threat,
imposed on me like Holy Writ,
won’t be unlearned: I’m stuck with it.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

TRUE COLOURS

Yesterday evening, my wife Jane and I attended the opening of Trudie Shannon’s new art exhibition, entitled Changing Rhythms, at St James Assembly Hall in St Peter Port.
The exhibition, which boasts nearly fifty images, is an extravaganza of colour interspersed with a number of Trudie’s amazingly intricate black and white images.
Alongside the paintings you’ll find a number of remarkable poems that complement or illuminate the pictures.
Many of the vibrant images you’ll see here appear in a new book, launched in tandem with the Exhibition, called Beside the Water.



 
Also on display is a beautiful embroidery exhibit which is for sale to raise funds for a local charity, Les Bourgs Hospice, in memory of Trudie’s beloved Aunty Edna, who spent her final months there.
 

Trudie writes:
I am the artist, the poet, you are the viewer, the reader. I offer you both words and images to continue the creative journey that has begun here ...    

The exhibition runs until 10th October and it's well worth a visit.
Trudie's book, Beside the Water, is available in Guernsey for £6.99.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

TRIO

The Guernsey Literary Festival has come and gone but despite being invited to participate in various poetry-related activities I chose, this year, to immerse myself instead in the launch of Edward Chaney's splendid biography, Genius Friend, about the life of the late G B Edwards.

Publisher, Stephen Foote, Researcher, Jane Fleming and Author, Edward Chaney, together in Guernsey

Guernsey writer Gerald Edwards was the creator of a fictional Guernsey character, the unforgettable Ebenezer Le Page, and it's been thrilling to witness the wave of local enthusiasm that has greeted the publication of Professor Chaney’s book. 
My wife, Jane, has for many years been involved in the promotion of G B Edwards' world-famous novel and latterly in genealogical research for the biography.

TRIO (2)

In the run-up to the Festival, I entered some poems in the Poems on the Buses/Poems on the Move Competition and am pleased to report that the judge, former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, selected three to appear in poster form at venues around the island and on board our local buses.
You can read all three poems below.




Thursday, 17 September 2015

LE PAGE TURNER

I’m delighted to announce that the eagerly-awaited biography of the late G B Edwards, author of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page, is now available.

Professor Edward Chaney, author of the biography of G B Edwards

Professor Edward Chaney is currently in Guernsey to launch his book, entitled Genius Friend, and will be on stage during the Guernsey Literary Festival, which starts today.
Despite the unfortunate scheduling of Professor Chaney’s talk, which coincides with the Festival Opening Party, the event sold out within hours and a second performance has been hastily arranged.
I understand that this too is already fully booked and that, jointly, these appearancess have proved by far the most popular events in this year's Festival Programme. 

If you didn't manage to obtain a ticket, you can still meet Edward Chaney at the Guernsey Press Bookshop in St Peter Port this Friday lunchtime between twelve and two.
Here’s a reminder of my two previous posts on the subject of G B Edwards and his immortal creation, the cantankerous Guernseyman, Ebenezer Le Page.



First Posted 25 April 2015

Professor Edward Chaney will later this year publish his long-awaited biography of celebrated Guernsey writer, G B Edwards, author of that much-loved modern classic, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page.
Gerald Basil Edwards, who died in 1976, was a Guernsey-born writer and self-imposed exile, a contemporary of Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield and D H Lawrence. 

His one great novel was not published until after his death. 

This Proustian tale, set in our small island but with universal themes, has been justly praised, worldwide, although Edwards himself has received little in the way of acclaim in his island birthplace, Guernsey. 

Let’s hope that Edward Chaney’s forthcoming book will put this right. 

First Posted 7 May 2015

You’ll be hard pressed to find a copy of The Book of Ebenezer Le Page in any of Guernsey’s bookshops and seeking what has been described as one of the finest novels of the Twentieth Century in Guernsey’s many tourist outlets can also prove to be a fruitless exercise.
How can it be that this modern masterpiece written by a native Guernseyman, the late  Gerald B Edwards, has become all but invisible on the island of his birth?  
New York Review of Books described the novel as: “A triumph of the storyteller’s art that conjures up the extraordinary voice of a living man.” 
Praise of the book has been echoed by literary critics across the globe, yet in Guernsey this memorable book is virtually ignored.
I was introduced to The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by my wife, Jane, who has campaigned tirelessly to promote recognition of both the novel and its author, G B Edwards.
I read it, struggling, as many do, with the early chapters, and found myself immersed in a truly amazing tale, set on the small island of Guernsey, yet having a universal appeal.
The narrator, elderly, cantankerous Ebenezer Le Page, recounts the story of his life and passions in a voice that grows ever more familiar and full of humanity with each passing page and, while doing so, introduces the reader to a cast of characters that are totally believable and absolutely full of life.
A long-awaited biography of G B Edwards, written by Professor Edward Chaney, is due to be launched later this year by Blue Ormer Publications.

Monday, 14 September 2015

POETRY AND MOTION

Each year Guernsey runs an international poetry competition when a selection of the best entries are chosen to become part of our local Poems on the Buses project.
Successful poems are displayed on an interior panel of each of our thirty-three local buses for the enjoyment of visitors and commuters alike.
This year's competition judge was former Poet Laureate, Sir Andrew Motion, who included three of my poems in his selection. 
This is not the first time my poems have been successful in the competition, but to have a staggering three selected, a veritable hat-trick, is something well worth celebrating.
Here's one the the poems that made it this year.



PASSENGERS

One sits with headphones on, swaying.
One’s sending texts, hypnotically.
Another, eyes on his touchscreen,
tweets and re-tweets, robotically,
or unfriends unknown, online friends.
One takes selfies, narcissistic:
Me on the bus. Me looking cool.
Another’s going ballistic,
cursing her phone, quite unaware
of where she is, how she appears.
Like some new species, comatose,
that neither sees, nor smells, nor hears
the living world, they ride the bus,
detached from life, detached from us.



Fellow poet, Peter Kenny, beside my poem, The Exile, which was displayed last year.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

FUTURESHOCK

This story started life as two separate poems, neither of which worked satisfactorily. 
I put them aside, but there was something about each of them that I thought worth saving.
Eventually, like Doctor Frankenstein, I exhumed them, stitched them together: arms and legs to torso, brain inserted into the cranium like a battery in an old radio and then, gingerly, I applied the electrodes.
The result of my experiment is The Nature Room. 
Step this way, please. 
 


THE NATURE ROOM

And here we have the Nature Room. Step in. Do not tread on the grass.
See, we have realistic trees, many flowers, also birdsong. Notice the scent of fertile earth and how the clouds appear to move. Over there is a waterfall: that is a recent addition.
Look here, to your left. The tiger in this compound is rather special. The last one born by traditional process. It is old, of course. See, it moves with difficulty. A curiosity, is it not?
Over there, in the large enclosure, are tigers born of science. We created them. Synthetic beasts, flawless and, dare I say it, beautiful.
This old tiger is decrepit. Soon it will die. Ours will survive and flourish. As species decline and perish we will replace them. Today the tiger, tomorrow, bears perhaps, or wolves when they have gone. Nature is flawed. It will die out. We shall remake and improve it.
Old-fashioned, non-synthetic beasts cannot withstand the pace of change: the world will not sustain them, but never fear, we have the means to replenish all that is lost.
We are proud of our Nature Room.It has been reproduced with care. All that you see here resembles the Old-World-That-Was, but is superior. Control is the key. See how the rain falls and how it stops. All so easy.
In the river there are salmon. Not real fish, you understand: these, too, are artificial. Our river will never run dry and not one tree will ever fall. Science is the answer. Things were too slippery before, too unrestrained, disorganised. Behold, now we control it all.
Are not our tigers finer than this pathetic specimen? It is old. A curiosity, of course. Soon it will be gone. No matter. We have things in hand. Come, let us move on.
Here in the basement lab we have something special. We have created the future. In the caged incubator to your left, see, is it not splendid? Observe the stocky body, sturdy arms, fists that reach and clutch. Note well, the eyes, intelligent, alert. Look how it turns its massive head to stare at us.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR

It’s that time of the year when Horse-Chestnut trees begin to shed their spiky green fruit.
They tumble to earth like emerald spacecraft and promptly disgorge their cargo, those glorious, glossy, nut-brown seeds that we call conkers.
It’s a long time since I attended school and, since then, the world has changed beyond recognition. Do children still play conkers or has an over-zealous Health and Safety culture put an end to those thrilling confrontations?
At school, conkers were treasured and nurtured. 

A body of lore surrounded the treatment and preparation of each one in order to make it successful in its encounter with a rival.
Victory could make its owner lord of the playground until the day that a tougher, more resilient conker vanquished it.
Here’s a poem about just such a moment.



 

CONQUEROR

Harold’s had beaten all the rest
and like its owner it was tough.
Big, indestructible and smug,
he took Will's challenge with a shrug.
Perhaps he thought he’d called Will's bluff.
Will thought: Okay, let’s see who’s best.

The boys went still as Will took aim.

He held his breath and took a swing:
his conker struck hard. Harry's split.
It was a giant-killing hit.

Harold was left with empty string.
William had won the crucial game!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

I DREAMED A DREAM

I hope you enjoyed this blog's first and possibly last serial. 
It was enormous fun to write: a departure from my usual style. 
It brought to mind the grand old days of B-movies at the Astoria Picture House in Belfast, back in the Nineteen Fifties.  
Here's one final word from Betty-Mae.


THE DREAM

I dreamed last night that he’d returned
and walked in like he’d never left:
that bashful smile, the same crushed suit,
his scar, his chin with the cute cleft
I loved to touch. His kisses burned.
I called him lover, lovely brute.

Then, like I’d turned up the wrong card:
the trey maybe, or Ace of Spades,
he’s walking backwards into smoke
and steadily his image fades.
I’m left, bereft of him. It’s hard.
Damn card’s a Joker. Some damn joke.

Friday, 4 September 2015

OF MICE AND MEN (Part 5)

Here's the concluding episode of the serial, THREE BLIND MICE, written in the Noir style.

If you've missed the four preceding episodes, just scroll down.

There's been a bloodbath at the bank. A bank-guard is dead.
Bank-robbers, Leroy and Vin have been killed. Driver, Wes has made a getaway in the Oldsmobile. 
But he's wounded.






10. THE PRIEST

I get there. There’s three guys deceased.
I do my duty as a priest.

These rituals I know by heart.
They matter: help eternal souls
of good and less-good men depart,
whether through age or bullet holes.

But killings leave me vexed, perplexed.
They'll call the undertaker next.





11. THE CONCERNED CITIZEN

He wrecked the auto, then took off
on foot. I watched, I told the cops:

He’s injured, bleeding through his coat.
He’s only gone ten minutes tops.

Short guy, with battered pork-pie hat;
his face was scarred: I told them that.

Two chased him. One cop took a note
of what I said: it’s good enough

to get the bozo apprehended.
That’s where my involvement ended.






















12. WAITING FOR WES

I had this crazy dream one time:
there’s blind mice running in a maze
of endless winding passageways
whose walls weep blood and ooze with slime.
I want to save them but I can’t.
I sure think that’s significant.

Wes told me, meet him here at four.
I was on time, he didn’t show.
He’s never made me wait before.
Like Peter at the third cock-crow,
I feel cold fingers seize my heart
and slowly rip its flesh apart.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

OF MICE AND MEN (Part 4)

Part 4 of the daily serial, THREE BLIND MICE, written in the Noir style.

If you missed the earlier episodes, just scroll down to the previous posts. 

The bank hold-up's gone badly wrong. Leroy's been killed. A cop's been shot and a bank-guard fatally wounded. Vin's dying on the sidewalk. Wes, too, has been hit but escaped ... for the moment. 
Meanwhile, the Mastermind's back at the hideout, waiting. 
















8. PROF

Right now I’m playing Solitaire
and waiting for the boys to show.
When they come by we’ll split the dough,
then I’ll be gone, as free as air.
I plan the jobs. They do the rest.
I’m not a muscle-guy, you see.
They call me Prof: capital P,
I look the part: soberly dressed.
I’m studious: you’d never think
I got a fortune stashed away.
What dumb-ass said that crime don’t pay?
Champagne’s my drink. My dames wear mink.




 













9. THE COP

I watch them step into the bank.
I know him, Vin, the Human Tank:
he’s packing heat to left and right
and Leroy too, mean as snake-bite:
two felons with harmful intent.
Here’s my report of the event.

They pull a hold-up, demand dough
I shout: Surrender! Vin shouts: No!
He fires the first shot: bullets fly.
Leroy’s the first hoodlum to die.
Vin gets me in the leg, I fall
but keep on shooting as I crawl.
Vin’s hit. He shoots a bank guard dead
then limps outside. His suit turns red.
I make it to the sidewalk, aim
and hit the driver, what’s-his-name.
The Car takes off without the loot,
three black-and-whites in hot pursuit.

To be concluded tomorrow ...

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

OF MICE AND MEN (Part 3)

Part 3 of the daily serial, THREE BLIND MICE, written in Noir style.

If you missed the previous two episodes, just scroll down to Monday and Tuesday's posts.

Leroy, Vin and their getaway driver, Wes have arrived at the bank they're intent to rob but there's a police presence they hadn't anticipated. 


6. THE BANK

We’re cruising past the bank again,
just three guys in an Oldsmobile.
We’re cool and Wes is at the wheel,
along by Forty-Fifth and Main.
Vin tells Wes: Wait.
I look around. I calculate.
We see no cops. I say to Vin:
Let’s go! We’re out and moving fast
and, jeez, it’s happening at last.
The bank doors spin as we go in.
I shout: Just freeze!
Vin shouts: Gimme the money please.
Time speeds up, then slows down once more.
We give the teller bags to fill
with unmarked bills. It’s cool until
a cop walks through the spinning door.

It turns out bad.
It always does when Vin gets mad.




7. PSYCHO VIN

Leroy, he shouts out: Get in, Vin.
I get in of my own accord:
don’t take no orders from no one.
I’ve scored some blow, got more on board,
so now the action can begin.
I check both pockets for a gun.

That goddam Leroy don’t know shit.
The driver is some pussy guy.
Could run this whole job on my own:
just tell them jump and they’d comply.
I’m one mean guy with guts and grit:
they’ll write that on my damn gravestone.

It happens fast. We’re though the door.
We’ve got them cold. We’ll soon be gone.
They’re packing money in the sack.
A young cop bursts in, pistol drawn.
We’re firing. Leroy’s on the floor.
The bank guard shoots me in the back.

I blow the fucking guard away
then limp into the avenue.
The cop crawls out and fires again.
Our driver takes a bullet too.
I’m hurt. I need a tourniquet.
The car leaves like a goddamn train.

















To be continued tomorrow ...

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

OF MICE AND MEN (Part 2)

Part 2 of the daily serial, THREE BLIND MICE, written in the Noir style.

If you missed the opening episode, just scroll down to yesterday's post.

Wes has been recruited as a getaway driver and his fiance, Betty Mae, fears for his safety. 










4. LEROY

The Olds’ pulls in. I slide inside.
The Driver nods but he don’t speak.
I recommend we go get Vin.
He cracks a grin: away we glide.
Wes drives relaxed, a cool technique:
I like a guy with discipline.

We pull in back of Artie’s bar:
Vin piles in like a thunderbolt.
Mad eyes and face that’s furnace-hot:
his energy heats up the car.
A Smith and Wesson and a Colt
are the equipment that he’s brought.

There’s me, Leroy, with Vin and Wes
cruising on Fifty-Fifth and Main.
The Olds’ is solid as a tank:
respectable. Who’d ever guess,
as we swing back and forth again,
we’re here to rob the Union Bank.

















5. THE DRIVER
 
I fetch the car. The boys arrive,
jump in, shout: Okay Wes, let’s go!
They’re bad guys, that’s for sure, although
I ain’t a bad guy. I just drive.

They’re wired up, fired up, talkin’ jive,
discussing bank jobs, easy dough,
but Whoa man! I don’t wanna know.
This ain’t my caper. I just drive.

They go in fast, say: Wes, take five.
I grip the wheel and sink down low,
eyes on the street, ready to go.
When they come running, I’ll just drive.

I’m cool until the cop strolls by.
Then, in the bank, things go awry.



 To be continued tomorrow ...