I recently submitted a duologue to Harpers Titchy Theatre for inclusion in the Penkhull Mystery Plays. I wrote it a few years ago, back in 2016, in a bar in Dublin one night over a glass over wine or two. I had only performed it once at Food for Thoughts in Gloucester and had dragged Dave Dunwell into performing it with me. I think it went well.
Fast forward to 31st March 2019 and I’m sitting in the audience at the pop-up Harpers Titchy Theatre in Penkhull village hall and I’m more nervous than I have ever been when performing anything myself. I had let the duologue fly free and now it was all grown up and being performed without me.
It was great, the actors were great, I loved it. If you want to see it for yourself then the next performance will be on Saturday 13th July 2019 at the Penkhull Mystery Plays.
We’ve Seen It All – A Duologue
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I could write about that day in Paros where we walked the beach road from Parikia out past the ferry port and the bar and the restaurants, past the campsite and the restaurants on the beach, past the sports beach club where we had swam the day before, where I had found the empty sea urchin shell, out along the narrow beach path, out around and up onto the headland where the wind blew through the aloe vera plants and we climbed high over the sea below, round the corner where the headland felt more of a desert than a beach now and on until we started descending to the roadway below past the deserted campsite club and squeezing our way onto the edge of the end of this new beach.
We walked a while and found ourselves now opposite the town and its beaches, where the ferries now passed between us and docked in the distance. We joined a handful of locals in the sun under some abandoned beach shade umbrellas and watched a scruffy little dog do as it pleased along the water’s edge. We swam and dried off. We swam again, slipping off our constricting swimwear and swimming free in the sea. We lay in the shade to dry off and watched an old man arrive in an ancient Fiat and enter the sea for his daily lunchtime swim, out to the buoy and in again and back along the beach edge.
I entered the water and followed his route, my bravery enhanced by watching his success. Swimming out in the sea and I was free. Free and a little scared, scared of all those things they tell us to be scared of, the depth, the currents, the cold cramp, exhaustion. I thought of all these things as I swam out following his path, his invisible trail somehow holding its permanence through its daily repetition through the waves and I returned victorious. I had conquered the sea.
And that is the story of the sea of Paros one summer of 2017, in the year after the fire and before the operation.
Every day I walk these streets I try to take them in. Every detail, the pall of smog from the incinerator smokestack separating the oily black of the night sky from the neon glow of the streetlights lining the A50 below. The football stadium stands like a citadel in the middle of the middle distance and the drone of the traffic rises up to meet me.
Chamberlain Avenue draws up from London road in a exponential steepness dragging its way upwards from the kebab shops and oatcake shops, broken windows and broken paving slabs. The discarded sweet wrappers, beer cans and broken glass are suddenly gone and fallen leaves take their place in piles of brown and gold. Council workers blow and sweep the leaves into the back of their pickup but they don’t pick up the rubbish in London Road. Chamberlain Avenue leads to Penkhull, London Road is Stoke. Stoke Town. One of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.
I take in these details, because one day when I have left here and find my peace, these things, these memories and sights and sounds will become words and stories and songs. But for now they weigh heavily and it is the best I can do to take them in at all.
January 2019 and these thoughts did distill into a song carrying the essence of some of my Stokie experiences:
Chamberlain Road – James Laurie / Pony Folk – Stoke-on-Trent version 2
Sometimes I don’t want to go outside, I don’t want to leave the quiet, calm sanctuary of our home, but needs must. The first task outside is always to pick up the rubbish from outside the house. I don’t know where it comes from, but it arrives in a tide washed and blown down the street. Rubbish on the pavement, rubbish in the gutter, rubbish on the oil-stained kerbstones.
Most of the time the street is chock full of cars, the rubbish strewn gutter hidden away under the hulks of metal.
Towards the top of the street is a green area. Nobody knows who it belongs to or what it is for. It never gets its grass cut and no-one uses it. It could be beautiful, it could be a community garden, an allotment or wildlife haven. Heaven forbid, it could also be used for parking, even that would be better than the rubbish dump it’s used for now.
We have a jitty through to Chamberlain Avenue from the top of the street, it’s great for pedestrians and the occasional fast-food delivery driver uses it too.
Some people like to use it to discard their unwanted rubbish.
Chamberlain Avenue is nice, they recently had their road and pavements resurfaced, block paving installed around the trees in the path and the drains were unblocked and cleaned.
There’s no rubbish on the street in Chamberlain Avenue. Once I have negotiated the carcasses of sofas, the pile of old flooring and the discarded sandwich I can but only envy the people of Chamberlain Avenue. At least for now….
Write something profound,
Write something meaningless,
Write for the joy of writing,
Write for the hate of writing,
Write for the ugly,
Write for the beautiful,
Write the way,
Write the time,
Write for the right now, the long goodbye and the happy ever after
Write for all the dark mornings and the long dark nights,
Write for the summer sun and the winter stars,
Write for the blazing heat, the bitter cold, the warm rain and the cold snow,
Write for the stark mountain peaks and the lush valleys depths below,
Write for rivers of ice, streams of crystal cool, gold filled, earth blood,
Write for the burning horizon an the nothing in-between,
Write for love,
Write to save your soul,
Write for peace,
Write for right and write to make the world whole,
Write to be read,
Write to be ignored,
Write to be indifferent,
Write, just write once more.