This week’s informal, informative and often insolent blog is perforce a rushed affair this week. These words are transmitted to you via the miracle of the Internet, using a method slightly more complex that usual. I have been taking a break from the hurly-burly of Ealing, touring the lowlands of Scotland and doing a little research into the life of the National Poet Rabbie Burns. In order to save hours on the motorway dicing with lorries, the two-seater was transported to Carlisle by steam-wagon and I met it off the train from Euston. I hit the road fresh and found my way to a lovely hotel near Alloway.
Now, it might have something to do with the car, or my attire but I think the Hotel Receptionist thought I was some kind of wedding planner. On arriving in my room I set to writing the blog, and dropped the hand-written copy off with the nice lady with my home address. However, as I say, I think the receptionist thought I was organising a wedding. I asked her to email the copy to my man in London, but instead she faxed it to a baker in Jedburgh who iced it onto the top of a cake. After a somewhat frantic conversation the cake was couriered to my flat where My Man made the best of coming up with a final version. As you can tell by the contents of this introduction this required a second draft, though my Man’s response to receiving the blog in icing being to have his final corrections iced onto a cake and sent back was surprising to say the least. Nevertheless, the cake was delicious, but huge.
Pat Francis led off this week with an extremely reductionist approach to music, which would not appeal to the organisers of the Sir Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, which is perhaps a shame as I am an enormous fan. Doig Simmonds has been mulling over love and taking a somewhat of a hall of mirrors slant to the experience. John Hurley tells us he is often up and out with the lark, an experience which informed this week’s observations on the relationship between man and wildlife. Nick Barth tells us that any poet worth his onions has got at least one in his box on the subject of Schrödinger, or has he? James Priestman brought us something new and Brexit-tinged, but do not let that put you off, as it was as sharply observed a portrait of someone who’s last name should rhyme with ‘garage’ as we will ever read. Alan Chambers took us back to the seashore and perhaps somewhere else. Daphne Gloag brought us the very start of her possibilities sequence and the possibilities are intriguing. Christine Shirley is working on a Verse Play, an endeavour I applaud enthusiastically, she read us an early excerpt. Roger Beckett has been thinking back to the kind of punishments we used to dole out to children before the RSPCA really got going. Finally, Martin Choules has had a really serious go at producing some proper nonsense.
My experience of touring the lowlands of Scotland is that poetry has a bit of a poor reputation. The reason is this; ruined abbeys. It is possible to find more or less ruined anything here in the borders of Scotland, from castles to churches and a fair number of abbeys. Many were ruined during the ‘rough wooing’ of Henry VIII’s time when he tried his best to have Mary Queen of Scots betrothed to his son, Edward. The Scots, being a staunchly independent people resisted this unification by any other name and instead packed MQS off to France where she had, by all accounts, a lovely time. The French helped to defend the Scots from the rough wooing, but a large amount of nice real estate was roughly wooed as a consequence. The trouble was, while there were a lot of romantic, ruined abbeys about, Scotland, along with the rest of Europe underwent an excess of romantic poets in the 17th and 18th Century. It became ever so fashionable to have a ruined abbey on one’s property, in order that one could be seen wandering pensively around the roofless spaces and glassless windows, declaiming the latest romantic verses to the gathering dusk. Soon the nobility, major landowners and other grandees were taking churches that could just have done with a bit of sprucing up and ruining them, or worse, building new ruined abbeys and pretending that they had been there all the time. Fortunately, romantic poets tended to have tragically short lives, so the fashion for ruined abbeys eventually came to an end. A number of dented churches must have breathed sighs of relief.
If you have been, thank you for reading.