Gay Shame?

Yes, it’s Pride today and we shall be going to watch the procession, after which I am preparing to complain loud and long if people do what they did at the Caribbean Carnival and corral everyone at the gates so they can check bags and frisk people!  Frisking people at Pride is a can of worms because whereas you would normally frisk people of the same sex as you, how is that going to work at a gay event?  I think the whole thing’s outrageous: and whereas it might be justified at airports where there is a realistic threat of terrorism, this does not apply at an event like Pride; still less at the Caribbean Carnival.  There’s far too much of this sort of stuff; bloody cameras everywhere and google streetview invading people’s privacy when they said they wouldn’t and – oh, all sorts of things.


Mark is going to do something weird at Pride, but I can’t tell you what it is.  No, he’s not coming out as gay…

So what else can I tell you?  Holly has just emerged all in black as she is off to work at the Tigers’ Ground.  It’s match-day today and she is working in the bar, much to her relief as she will at last have some money.  Daniel’s exhibition has now finished: they had hundreds of visitors and sold a dozen or so photos: Daniel sold two and Michael, the oldest exhibitor, sold about half a dozen.

And that’s the summer.  Almost over – and my tomatoes are still bloody green…

Kirk out


We can breathe more easily today, for thank goodness, Parliament has made the right decision and voted against starting yet another war in the Middle East.  Milliband has finally found his voice and begun opposing the government and Cameron has accepted the vote and realised that neither Parliament nor the country would be behind him if he followed Blair into yet another ill-advised venture.  So we breath a sigh of relief today.  Had it not been so it would have looked increasingly as though our foreign policy was determined not by us or our representatives but by the US; and we all know that US foreign policy – at least as far as the Middle East goes – is determined by Israel.


That’s all I have to say this morning.  No book reviews as I haven’t been reading much.

Kirk out

Having an Egg in Your Beard

Well, my dears – this week I have been watching some new stuff and some old stuff – and the first thing I want to recommend is ‘Fightback Britain’.  It’s rather annoyingly presented by a pair who alternate like stage comics and finish each other’s sentences as though afraid we might get bored if we had to look at one of them for more than ten seconds!! – but nevertheless it’s a heartening antidote to the otherwise endless litany of unpleasant crime stories we get on the news.  This programme does what it says on the tin – it’s about people fighting back against crime.  Grannies belt thieves with their shopping and overturn their motorbikes; young women slay burglars with a nicely-aimed set of car-keys; vicars pounce on would-be lead thieves and stop them escaping – this is a story of success; and whilst the mainstream news can make you feel powerless and sick to your boots, this makes you feel strong and powerful.

So much for the new stuff.  The older programmes I watched have been on 4OD where I have revisited the excellent drama series ‘Black Mirror’.  Done by the brilliant Charlie Brooker, this series takes a cultural tendency of ours and projects it into the future.  My favourite, ’15 Million Merits’, posits a society where the only escape from a virtual, drone-like existence is to enter a talent show.

Other episodes include a scenario where the Prime Minister is forced to save a Princess’s life by having sex with a pig live on TV, and a ‘better than life’ scenario where a woman’s dead partner is uploaded in digital format.  Perhaps the most disturbing story, though, was the one about retributive justice, where a woman who tortured and killed a child is subjected to daily scenes of horror, acted out and filmed in front of a paying audience:

After all that, I needed some comedy – and where better to turn than some of my favourite episodes of ‘Black Books’?  I know ‘Moo-Ma and Moo-Pa’ too well to enjoy it as I used to, but the one where a friend of Manny’s kills the Pope, the one where Bernard gets locked out and ends up working in a burger bar (‘there was a little man in his hair!’) and the one with the travel writer are all just as good.

And that was my week…

Kirk out

The Plumage Don’t Enter Into It!

Yes, it’s a Norwegian theme this morning and Mark started early, just as we were having our tea, when he opined that Norwegian was ‘easy’.

‘Is it?’ I said.  I’ve never attempted to learn Norwegian, as last night’s limericks will have shown if you were at Pinggk.

Mark showed me a picture of a flag with the Norwegian word ‘Flagg’ under it.

‘Yep, that looks easy,’ I said.

He could have left it there – but no!  He then showed me a picture of a coat of arms, underneath which was written the word ‘Riksvapen’ (the ‘a’ should have a little circle over it).

‘What?  How is that easy?’ I said.

He sighed impatiently.  Well, ‘vapen’ is obviously weapon.  As in arms – right?’

‘I guess,’ I said slowly.

‘And Rik is Reich,’ isn’t it?’


‘Reich!  As in the Third Reich!  Meaning kingdom!’

Ok so now we have… after a great deal of struggle – ‘kingdom weapons’.

Hmm.  Maybe Norwegian not so easy after all.

But the theme was appropriate for last night’s Pinggk was on the theme of ‘in translation’.  I did first of all a poem by Lorca, ‘Pequeno Vals Vienes’,

with Leonard Cohen’s translation ‘Take this Waltz’.

Then in the second half I did my limericks ‘On Not Understanding Scandinavian Languages’, in which the Norwegian verse goes:

‘And Norwegian’s complex as fjords

more twiddly than Anglian broads

the grammar’s a beast

but the parrot’s deceased

in Valhalla with Vikings and swords.’

Mark made his poetry debut with one he’d written himself in Esperanto with English translation.  Alison and Magnus did a really interesting simultaneous English and Icelandic poem, and two Chinese women read some fascinating poems in Chinese.

So that was good.  I didn’t sleep very well and was just sipping my tea and recovering from the Norwegian language lesson when Mark hit me with this:

‘The Norwegian language council recommends the terms Norwegian Bookmorg and Norwegian Munork.’

‘What?’ I yelped.  I did eventually get an explanation out of him but it exhausted me so you’ll have to look it up if you want to know.

But I wouldn’t bother.

‘Beautiful plumage, the Norwegian Blue…’

Kirk out

Meanwhile here is some light poetry…

I’m trying to think of Helpful and Cogent to say about prose writing.  Meanwhile here is some light music…

Light Music

(for that unspellable volcano which spread ash all over Europe a few years ago)

And it brought back to me my childhood

every second thought


by a scream of metal

straining to get into heaven.

The sky is innocent; washed:

only the ash rains down

(as cars are witness)

now taxis ferry, buses come

government inhales:

normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Meanwhile here is some light music.

That is a poem I wrote in 2010 for that unpronounceable and unspellable volcano which erupted in Iceland and disrupted flights all over Europe.

And it’s appropriate that I should remember it today because today!  Today is Pinggkk! poetry day and the theme is ‘In Translation’.  Which means that I shall be doing my series of limericks about not speaking Scandinavian languages.  And not only that, Mark will be making his debut with a poem he has written himself and translated into English (from Mark-ese, naturally).

You have no idea how big a deal that is…

See you there!

Kirk out

Ten Years After

Ten years ago I thought I couldn’t write poetry – and then I started to fiddle a bit with rhymes, discovered Word! and Pinggk – and now I can.

Ten months ago I thought I couldn’t sing.  My voice was variable and often croaky.  But I started to practise.  Recently I’ve done a few songs at Yesim’s and they went down well.  So now I think maybe I can.

When I was four I was on the beach in Sussex when I learned that across the water lay another country, called France.  I decided to walk to France and I set my face to the waves.  Time after time I waded in, only to be hauled out by my father.

Never tell yourself ‘I can’t.’  My childhood – and perhaps more damagingly, my adolescence and later life – was filled with people raining on my parade, stealing my thunder and generally trying to teach me – for my own good, of course – that ‘I couldn’t’.   So that it becomes a narrative in your life; one that’s very hard to turn around.

Now, I am forced reluctantly to acknowledge that walking to France is kind of a tall order, especially for a four-year-old; but had I persisted I would have found out for myself what the difficulties were.  I would have learned wisdom.  Of course, it’s quite possible that my father had no idea what I was doing – he probably just saw me in danger and rescued me.  It’s quite possible that I didn’t explain I was walking to France.  But if I had I have no doubt I would have heard once more those dreaded words.

You can’t.

Or, to put it another way, ‘if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.’*  Because if you persist you will either get somewhere, in which case the nay-sayers will learn a thing or two – or you will fail, in which case you will learn a thing or two.  In the end there is no such thing as failure (and I don’t mean this in a horrid American way, chanting the mantra of success) – there is only learning.  Or to put it another way, ‘doubt does more damage than failure ever can.’

I can write the book on doubt.  I’ve sown enough seeds of doubt for a whole harvest.  But no more.  Because, ten years after, I can write poetry.

And maybe, just maybe, I can sing too.

Kirk out

*William Blake, Proverbs of Hell

The Late, Late Breakfast Show

Rather a late post this morning – after yesterday I’ve been having a laid-back start to the day.  The day began (yesterday, that is) at 3 am with insomnia which lasted until I got up; however it got better when I went out to see Daniel’s exhibition in town.  He and some other yoof have a photographic and art exhibition which they set up themselves in a disused shop-unit in town.  I thought it was great: when we arrived at 2 pm they had already had more than a hundred visitors and they’d only been open a couple of hours!  By close of play four photos had been sold (though not Daniel’s) and a lot of enthusiastic comments made in the book.  So head along and take a look – it’s open all week:

Then we walked down to the Western where there was a Cornish beer and cider festival on: we tried a half of two different beers which were hoppy at first but pronounced ‘twangy’ after a while.  This seems to be the case with all Cornish beers – maybe it’s the water.  Anyway, after that we went indoors and stuck mostly to the Billy Bitter although I did try a half of White something-or-other which was extremely pale and somewhat citrus-y.  i enjoyed it though Peter turned up his nose at the very sight of my brew.  Half-way across the afternoon a jazz-band set up and played mellow, slightly experimental jazz for a couple of hours; towards the end Mellow Baku came along and sang a couple of numbers.  My own taste in jazz runs more towards the traditional than the experimental end; this band were somewhere in the middle I guess.

After that we were starting to get hungry, so we toddled on down to Saardaar’s where we split a couple of delicious dishes washed down with a mango lassi apiece.  Lovely.  And then home, where I watched a couple of old episodes of Black Books (see next Thursday’s post, life on the i-player) before having a drastically early night.

And so to bed.

Kirk out

Making an Exhibition of Ourselves

And with no spam comments at all today, we must content ourselves with gems from the treasure-trove that is The World According to Mark.  Today we had a conversation that went roughly like this: Daniel had written a note saying ‘wake me up at 6 am’, so instead of realising that he’d written a 6 instead of a 9, Mark woke our poor bleary-eyed son at 6.  When I pointed out that it was obviously a mistake, he said:

‘How was Daniel at reading?’

‘Fine,’ I said.  ‘He was a slow starter but a lot of Home Ed kids are.  Once he got going he was very fluent.’



‘Do you think he might be dyslexic?’

‘No!  Why?’

‘He wrote a 6 instead of a 9!’

‘So!  He was just tired!  You’d do the same if you were tired.’

‘That’s just it – I wouldn’t.’

‘Well, I would,’ I retorted, whereupon he said something like ‘Syrizha’.

‘What?’  I was getting weary of this conversation already – and it was only 7.30.

‘If you were learning Squidge* and you’d done the alphabet you wouldn’t write a letter upside down would you?’


‘I mean, have you ever written a letter upside down when you’re dreaming?’


‘Because if you don’t do it when you’re dreaming you’re not going to do it when you’re tired, are you?’

‘I need some air,’ I said, and jumped out of the window.

Seriously.  That was his argument.

* I write ‘squidge’ because I can’t remember what language he mentioned.

And no, I only thought about jumping out of the window – I didn’t actually do it.

Today I shall be going to Daniel’s exhibition.  It starts at 12 and is on the first floor of the Shires – or whatever that monstrous carbuncle is called now – near the Disney shop.

See you there!

And finally, some sad news – a fellow Home-educator has died of cancer.  She was only 60 and had been ill for some time but only a few people knew.  She was a quiet and calm person who loved children and was really good with ours.  She will be missed.

Kirk out

The Garden at the Fifth Quarter

This week I have been mostly reading… ‘Derek Jarman’s Garden’.  Written by the man himself it’s a beautiful glossy green book full of colour and black-and-white photographs and pages of history on how the garden came to be.

It was given to me by Bobba because he liked my poem ‘Dungeness Sonnet’ which mentions the garden in an iambic-pentameter trawl of Dungeness, finishing up at the power station.  Dungeness is a special space; the edge of the land, a place formerly known as ‘the fifth quarter’ because it was out on a limb, a liminal space at the very edge of England.

The garden is very unusual; built on the shingle surrounding an old fisherman’s cottage, it is planted with sea-kale, poppies and other indigenous plants, interspersed with driftwood, flints and found objects.  It’s a garden in harmony with its environment, unlike so many gardens inland which he lambasts for being composed of monocultured lawns and huge, non-indigenous flowers.  In between the photos, mostly taken by his partner Howard, he gives a suitably rambling and vague history of the garden and how it came to be.  There are some poems, too, which he wrote after Howard died – and all of this gives us a real flavour of the man himself.

Aids stalks the background to this book in the same way that the nuclear power station looms in the hinterland of many of the photos: it’s hard to believe now that less than 20 years ago many gay men died of Aids, which was self-righteously called ‘the gay plague’ by the tabloid press.

I thoroughly recommend this book; it could do duty as a coffee-table book, but not only as a coffee-table book.  It’s worth reading and re-reading; in fact it is worth living with.

Kirk out

Carrying him home in two carrier bags…

So, it’s Thursday which means the theme is ‘life on the i-player’.  And what have I been watching this week?  Well, it being the slow season there wasn’t too much on offer that was new.  So I caught a couple of old favourites including Dad’s Army and QI.  The latter featured the quite incredibly annoying Brian (gosh, I’m so brilliant) Cox as well as the ever-entertaining Sue Perkins, and had a lot of Quite Interesting science stuff in which was almost ruined by Cox’s perennially-grinning manner.  Half an hour of Brian is enough to make me yearn for Richard Dawkins – and that’s saying something.  It’s hard to imagine Dawkins on QI though, as he doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour.

Dad’s Army turned out to be an early black-and-white episode where a jobsworth bloke from HQ comes to inspect the platoon and tries to get Jones thrown out.  This highlights what is touching and quite subtle about DA – features which subsequent series from the same writers, such as ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’ and ‘Allo Allo’ entirely lacked – insofar as Mainwaring genuinely cares about his men and goes out on a limb to protect them.  When Jones is asked to complete an assault-course in 15 minutes the entire platoon pitches in to help perpetrate a scam and Jones is saved.

I followed this up with a helping of Blackadder – the third series, and in many ways my favourite, though the fourth is more moving.  This episode features a couple of ham actors and Prince George calling his butler ‘Bladder’, which I’m convinced was a blooper they kept in:

Just as I was about to listen to the Archers – at the very moment the pips were sounding, in fact – Mark burst through the door laden down with carrier bags.

‘What have you got there?’ I asked.

He showed me one bag which had the usual food-cupboard contributions from his mother.

‘What’s in the other one?’ I said.

‘A fox skull,’ he replied, airily.

‘A fox skull?’

‘Yes.  My mum gave it to me.  She found it on the lawn.’

‘But what are you going to do with it?’

‘Oh, dunk it in Persil.’

Resisting the urge to dunk his human skull in Persil, I persisted:

‘And then?’

‘Oh!  I don’t know – put it on a shelf or something.’

Great.  Just what I wanted – a manky old fox skull cluttering up the place.

So after the Archers we watched a very interesting programme about the history of lighthouses on the coast of Scotland and the family – Robert Louis Stevenson’s family, as it happens – who built them.

And so to bed…

Kirk out