Wow, what a Pinggk that was! It was my first ‘gig’ as a headliner, and I am now officially a Landmark Poet of Leicester, a status which I shall treasure. My ‘set’ as I believe poets call it, took the form of a journey: we started off at Duffy’s bar and travelled West to where the Bowstring Bridge once stood, where we paused to hear the Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge. From there we jumped sideways to view the bones of Richard III, encased appropriately enough in a Shakespearian sonnet, and then we left Leicester and jumped on a train to London.
You get onto the Piccadilly line and head West towards the airport. You get off at the station which was once the terminus, before they extended the line through to Heathrow. Turn left: walk 200 yards; there’s a church. Go round the back, there’s a house. And the garden is now a block of flats.
After a poem about the garden of the house where I grew up, we leapt across London to another garden, this time in Camden, and to a place where Alan Bennett’s Lady in the Van once lived. I did this one as a parody of ‘The Lady of Shallott’
so if you were there, see if you can spot the echoes. Sticking with parody, I followed this up by a Lewis Carroll take on a woman looking in the mirror, ‘To the Looking-Glass’, and then we were on the move again; this time to stand outside Parliament and protest about the Bedroom Tax. This poem, called ‘There’s a War On’, proved to be the most popular of the evening. It was requested again at the end; and it was videoed and will be on youtube. I’ll put a link when it’s up.
And so! we took a train and travelled down to the South coast, to a part of East Sussex where the tide has retreated over millennia, leaving behind markers which mostly seem to be military. Taking in Derek Jarman’s garden and Dungeness nuclear power station, we paused to frolic on the beach at Camber before starting to make our way back. Then Jacky was called. The owner of Duffy’s bar has been so generous to Pinggk over the years, and now that she has to leave and find other premises, I thought it fitting to end with a poem to her. Here is that poem:
Out on the city’s edge you kept a welcome
for refugees who come from scattered lives
to gather here, doors closed around the heat,
to sing, and dance, and talk and weave our words
into the tapestry that we call Pinggk.
I hope you found us worth it, after all,
after the freezing draughts of economics
had fingered everybody’s spine like death;
I hope you found the poets worth the pain
I hope you felt some measure of our joy.
It’s a cold country, England. Warmth like yours
no longer heats the back-rooms of the city
– it’s always winter in the banker’s heart
and now that we are up against the wall,
cast out, and left to wander on the edge,
so may you find a new home to keep warm
for refugees like us, out on the ledge.