Front Room

Front room,
Drawing room or parlour.
Best room.
Now a store room.
I write at an old table,
With drawers and planks screwed down on top.
A phone, a mug and a crowbar
Are my companions.
The street is silent for a moment.
18:37
Unlike the time the neighbour’s dog
Barked for three nights long, three long nights.
The ink in my pen runs out
And as I return with a new cartridge
Aware of the headache arriving soon
I step on a splinter of wood
From the busted up wardrobe.
My bare foot bared,
Unprotected.
The silence is over.
18:39

 

Learning Frailing Banjo Week 18

In week 18 I’m back at home again after our visit to Cleckheaton Folk Festival shown in the last video and also some time spent in Ceredigion, Wales where I recorded the guitar on the beach videos for ‘Ride On’ and ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’. I’ve submitted ‘Say Goodbye To Me Gently’ to the Lichfield Arts Song Writing Competition, so fingers crossed for the composition in the competition.

Today I talk about being able to pick out the melody notes from the general noise that I make on the banjo and also the start of the process of migrating another of my guitar songs, ‘Woman Without Dog’ to the banjo. We had a slightly lost and stressful morning of trying to figure out how many beats in the bar there were for each of my guitar finger picks for each chord in the song to then compare to a banjo strike/strum/thumb of which there are 2 sets to each bar. We had to start with the assumption that the song was in 4/4 time and came out with the probable timing of:

D – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
She’s up in the park every

G – 3 or 4 bars
day…………

C – 4 or 5 or 6 bars
Walking her dog at least that’s what she

G – 3 or 4 bars
says…………

IMG_2032

And finally my other project of learning the yoga headstand of Salamba Sirsana continues as a reminder that improvement is learnt and is achieved through regular practice.

 

Eating A Wrap On The Beach

Aberystwyth, the beach, the sun was hot but the wind was cold or at least cool. The temperature had dipped from the high twenties we had been been acclimatised to down to perhaps the low twenties now. The beach was pebbly but they were so small that with a little more effort and perhaps another million years it could be a sandy beach.

Entering the shade was much like visiting the dark side of the moon and with bare feet, the sun soaked pebbles underfoot felt burning hot, so we sought out a compromise and hotfooted it across the beach towards a concrete bastion that we hoped would shelter us from the wind.

Next that classic beach move of trying to change into your swimming trunks whilst in full view of pretty much everyone on the beach, and also those on the esplanade behind, with only a towel the size of a flannel to hide under. After a furtive few minutes, and now with bathing costumes weighed down with innumerable small pebbles that had snuck into every accessible and inaccessible nook and cranny, we made for the sea.

Entering water that is at a vastly different temperature to the ambient air temperature is always an experience. Yes, it will feel cold, yes, it will feel ok once you are in, and yes, once you are in you won’t necessarily want to get out. Remembering the hundreds of times I had swum in the river the year before last never helps, remembering the last few times I had swum in this sea, only the day before, for example, in fact that morning, didn’t help either. The process is always the same, expectantly and excitedly stripping off, and optionally changing into swimming attire, before plunging in up to the ankles or perhaps knees and thereafter inching in up to thigh tops. Then it’s a waiting game, each new millimetre of flesh that touches the water screams out in complaint and then is silent. That wasn’t too bad was it, but to plunge in, chest down, into the water? Not yet, let me think about it. Let me think about it a bit more. Perhaps I should just get out. But the water, and I know I’ll like it when I eventually get in. Ok, here goes. In a minute. Now. Hold on. Now. In a minute. Take a breath, pull a face and I’m in. yes, this is great, watch out for that jelly fish. What’s that? Ok, not a shark, just some seaweed. And I’m swimming, out to the end of the breakwater, and back in again, and out again, and along parallel to the beach and back again, and backstroke and breaststroke and just flapping around for bit. And then, all too soon it’s time to get out.

Ride On

I enjoy the deceptive simplicity of this song, after all it only has three chords, although watching it back now I feel I may be trying it in the wrong key and I need to finish learning all the words. But none of that is as important as the very act of creating music and creating art.

I remember one Open Mic I took part in, in my poet phase long before I ever imagined my singer/songwriter phase, where the compere’s invitation to perform ran along the lines of ‘if you’re sitting there thinking you can do better than this then now’s the time to show us’.

Brutal for those who had already performed, but perhaps effective (or not) for encouraging those who thought they were ‘better’. As if ‘better’ is a word you use to describe art or music. Anyways, it’s out there now and like a weekly Parkrun, I’d rather be there with a slower time than last week than still be in bed of a Saturday morning.

Cufflinks

Clearing out a drawer the other day, my Mum came across a small box containing a pair of cufflinks and shirt pins and a piece of paper inscribed ‘these were my Bruce’s studs – with love from Aileen’.

Aileen or Auntie Aileen as we knew her was my Grandfather’s sister, my Dad’s aunt. My Grandfather Cecil William Farrar Laurie and his sister Marie Aileen Lorna Laurie had been born in Barbados where the family once owned a sugar plantation.

The Bruce in the inscription was Bruce Hamilton, he and Aileen had married at the end of 1934 and it’s possible my dad, born in 1939, had been named for Bruce. He also received Farrar for his middle name, as I did later, a surname from Aileen’s branch of the family descended from Colonel Thomas Austin, another Barbados plantation owner, albeit it a much earlier one having been born there in 1728. This branch of the family included Austin Farrar who had been taught to write by Enid Blyton but was better known for inventing the ‘pulpit’, a guard rail that fits around the bow of a sailing yacht as a safety handhold and also for designing anti-torpedo nets during the Second World War. These two inventions have been credited with saving innumerable lives at sea.

Bruce and his younger brother Patrick Hamilton were both authors, Patrick being the more critically acclaimed author of ‘Hangover Square’, ‘Rope’ and with one of his plays, ‘Gaslight’, turned into the 1944 film starring Ingrid Bergman. ‘Gaslighting’ has entered the colloquial English language as the term commonly used for a form of physiological manipulation as experienced by the Bergman character in the film. Bruce’s most renowned works were the cricket based novel ‘Pro: An English Tragedy’, a poignant portrayal of the life of an English County cricketer around the time of the First World War. Patrick died in 1962 and Bruce in 1974, shortly after completing his brother’s biography ‘The Light Went Out: The Life of Patrick Hamilton’.

Aileen, an artist in her own right, was an infrequent visitor in the 1970’s to the quiet Northamptonshire village where her brother and his large extended family lived. I don’t remember much of these times as I was quite young, but I do remember she always seemed to be drawing. She would often make pencil sketches of the children and I’m sure many members of the family have these tucked away in old family photo albums.

My last memory of Aileen was from when I was perhaps 14 or 15, which would have been around 1986 when my Mum and Dad and I travelled to Brighton to visit her. Aileen died in 1987, my Dad in 2015 and now thirty years after first being given, these small mementos of both Bruce’s lives have come out into the open again.

C.W.F. Or Cecil William Farrar to give him his full name is my paternal grandfather, Aileen’s brother.