Thursday, 29 September 2016

Inter-Textuality in a Rodborough Churchyard

It was the most perfect equinoctial evening,
But with the six o’clock sun in drivers’ eyes,
I decided to walk rather than cycle - for a change,
And chose to walk to Rodborough Church,
Rather than straight up the hill to the common;

I sauntered along Spillmans to reach the church gate,
Where, placed carefully within the clambering ivy,
Was a lost shopping list, a middle class preparation
For a dinner party: precisely categorized calligraphy,
Upper case black ink, detailing the requirements:
YOGHURTS SOUR CREAM then four items I couldn't read shrouded by the branches and leaves of the ivy (Why didn’t I move the branch? I dunno. I think it’s because it felt as though I were regarding an exhibit in a gallery or museum, or perhaps it was the memory of a Christian upbringing …)
then another couple of ivy covered items

Someone had scrawled across this notelet in blue biro,
Poshy doshy – a young hand, condemnatory and judgmental,
Turning the world of class and deference upside down
In an inter-textual, meta-textual sort of way;
It was though Life itself had become the writer
In this churchyard of embedded narratives;

I felt compelled to record this postmodernist happenstance -
So penned these lines, sitting on a gravestone,
In the evening sunshine, imagining
That I would place the scrap of exercise paper
Next to the shopping list in the ivy;

But when I turned the church’s shadowed corner,
I came across this notice:
This is NOT a rubbish bin. Please take all flower wrappings, pots, wreaths and your graveyard rubbish home with you. Thank you

As Louis Armstrong put it in High Society:
'End of story.'

Trains and Boats and Games

Trains and Boats and Games

I was due to meet Andy at Temple Meads:
He was coming on the train from Yate,
 I was coming from Stroud via Swindon
(I wanted to call in at the Radical Book Fair,
To collect a pamphlet on smuggling),
But the signals were down at Parkway,
So I sat on a bench outside Temple Meads,
Listening to a man talk of seeing the debuts
Of Colin Bell and Wynn Davies,
While I ate a cheese and onion pasty,
Awaiting Andy,
When another man sat next to me,
Opened a map and asked:
''Do you know Bristol?'
I thought – correctly - that he might be a Derby fan,
So asked him if he fancied going to the match by boat,
Just as Andy texted:
Train cancelled, he'd have to drive,
So he'd meet me at the ground with my ticket.

My new, substitute Rams mate introduced himself,
Shook my hand: ‘Peter’; ‘Stuart,’ I replied,
Explaining that I wasn't local, but a Swindon fan -
'We've got something in common then,'
'Dave Mackay,' I replied.

It was going well.

We talked of Derby pubs:
The Brunswick, the Alexandra, the Peacock,
And how I’d never been to a match by water before -
Peter has previous, however:
‘When I watch a match at Derby,
I have a couple of pints in the Peacock,
Then walk along the River Derwent,
So that’s going to a match by water, I suppose.’

This sounded all a bit Arnold Bennett to me,
Transposed from the Potteries to the Peacock,
And I drifted away:

‘Around the field was a wide border of … hats … pale faces, rising in tiers, and beyond this border, fences, hoardings, chimneys, furnaces, gasometers, telegraph-poles, houses and dead trees.’

I thought of Arkwright, Cromford, the Derwent, and Bennett,
Until Peter asked me about Stroud, and Slad,
And, reverie over,
We spoke of Laurie Lee, the Woolpack, Clough, Taylor,
Forest, Mackay, Robertson, the European Cup Final,
Our banner referencing George Orwell at Real Madrid:
'Homage to Clough n Taylor',
And my letter to Brian Moore,
Asking if the cameras could focus on our pennant,
And his reply, written in fountain pen,
'What a night in Madrid, Stuart!
Hope you got the message over,
Best wishes, Brian.'

Peter Quinn, for it was he, then talked of his book:
A Ram's Fan's Fanfayre,
With chapter headings,
All starting with the prefix ‘For’:
‘Fortune, Forgettable, and so on,’
Conversing as the ferry made its way through the docks.
Until we alighted, asked the way of some Bristol fans,
And I left Peter in safe company at a cider- house,
The suitably named ‘Orchard.’

The build up to the game was great –
Peter and the ferry,
Andy with my ticket, driving befuddled through Bristol,
Eventually meeting me at Ashton Gate,
Then meeting his B.C.F.C. mate, Lee,
Who took us for a tour of the ground …

Then the constant singing of the beer swilled Derby fans,
'Forest are losing, Forest are losing,
'We are Derby, Super-Derby, Super-Derby, Super Rams',
'Derby Army', 'Derby Army', 'Derby Army',
The man in the fancy dress outfit: ‘Sheep on Tour’,
Hearing the half times: Swindon, two nil down,
Meeting my BCFC brother in law, Trevor, after the game,
With Bruce, my wife's cousin, over from Canada,
Meeting my charming, new grand-nephew, Rupert,
For the first time …

The match was a slightly tedious one all draw,
With countless throw-ins, a general air of ineptitude,
And if it wasn't for the Rams fans,

But the build up, and the aftermath,
The meeting of friends old and new,
Peter the Ram,
Andy the Ram.
Lee the Robin,
Bristol supporters on the ferry,
Bristol supporters at the Orchard,
Bruce, political reporter for the Toronto Star,
The greeting of a new baby,
A fourth generation Bristol City fan:
Rupert the Robin,

All mean that the day, and hence the match, too,
Have to be filed under the chapter heading:
Because sometimes a football match
Is only incidental to the enjoyment of a football match -
It’s what happens before and afterwards that count:
Trains and Boats not Games.

Newbridge to Oxford

Swans, Bridges, Feudalism and Modernity: From Newbridge to Oxford

The Windrush joins the Thames at Newbridge,
Flowing beneath the elegant Taynton stone bridge,
Once a port of call for that Burford quarried stone
On its way to Oxford and London,
As well as a defeat for the Parliamentarians …
The sight of so many swans gliding on the waters,
So close to King Charles’ Oxford,
With their mute depiction of feudal hierarchy:
These birds are for monarchs old and new, not
‘Yoemen and husbandmen and other persons of little reputation’;
A heron interrupted the flow of my thoughts down stream
To Hart’s Weir footbridge – more English quaintness:
The weir has gone, but a right of way remains to Erewhon;
Then Northmoor Lock, before reaching literary Bablock Hythe:
Matthew Arnold’s scholar-gypsy,
‘Oft was met crossing the stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hythe,
Trailing in the cool stream thy fingers wet,
As the punt’s rope chops round’;
None of that now at the Ferryman Inn and its chalet purlieus,
Instead a meander inland before returning to the waters
At Pinkhill Weir, before another short roadside detour,
And a boatyard and chandlers and a stride to Swinford Bridge
Where feudalism and modernity meet:
A toll bridge, built at the behest of the Earl of Abingdon in 1777,
Where a company still charges drivers today
(But not pedestrians!),
Then on to the now invisible Anglo-Saxon cultural importance
Of Eynsham, and Eynsham Lock,
Evenlode Stream and King’s Lock
(King denoting kine),
Underneath the Ox-ford by-pass
(You’ve heard its constant roar for over an hour),
To Godstow: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’ –
‘The use of detectors is strictly forbidden’,
Fair Rosamund, Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson;
Pat the astonishing free grazing common lands of Port Meadow:
Horses gallop free, while a train passes in the distance,
Kine, countless, standing in the waters,
Swans gazing at the stationary herds,
Port Meadow, a feudal gift to the burghers of Oxford,
Courtesy of Edward the Confessor,
Honoured by William the Conqueror;
But the industrial revolution was calling:
A boatyard, a footbridge, Osney Bridge, a canal,
And a train back to Stroud.