Land of Hop and Glory

Today I’m sad.  I’m sad not only because we lost but because of the reasons why we lost.  I’m sad because many people (not all) seem to have been swayed by xenophobia and the illusion that Britain can ‘go it alone’ – a glorious ship sailing clear island waters unfettered by the mainland.  I’m sad because there’s a nastiness about this referendum (and not all on one side) that I don’t remember before, even in the Thatcher years.  And I’m sad because I don’t know where we go from here.  Wounds must be healed, and with people like Farage and Johnson doing a victory dance all over the place, that’s going to be hard.

I’m not proud to be British today.  I’m ashamed of the way we’ve fought this referendum, and I’m ashamed of the result.

Kirk out (but voted In)

Stairway to Riches?

Well, did Led Zep rip off a rather dull number by an obscure band to produce Stairway to Heaven?  If so, I’m quite glad they did, since the original is quite dull and soporific whereas Stairway to Heaven is an enduring work of genius.  But plagiarism is fraught with complications.  Creative people often have similar ideas at similar moments; there is a sort of cross-pollination in the air which also affects other things such as scientific discoveries.  To be sure, the chord-sequences running through both songs are eerily similar (and in the same key) but does that prove plagiarism?  You’d have to prove first I guess that Led Zep heard Spirit’s song, which they say they ‘don’t remember’ doing.  It could be true, then again perhaps it’s a convenient way of covering up the truth.

But here’s the thing: we all take from each other.  Every poet I’ve ever read or heard has given me something – how could it be otherwise?  Yet why would I bother plagiarising any of them?  No disrespect, but I’m quite capable of writing my own original work, thank you – just as Led Zep were quite capable of writing original songs.

But there’s nothing new under the sun.  That chord sequence is probably in a hundred pieces by Bach: it’s what you do with it that counts.  Led Zep took it and made it genius.  So if they did plagiarise the original song I’m quite glad – because the original was utterly boring.

These cases are ultimately about money.  And in the end the only winners are the lawyers.  Anyway, listen and compare:

Kirk out

My Two Euros?

OK since the silence on Europe following Jo Cox’s tragic murder, has ended, here are my thoughts on Europe.

I don’t know what the financial implications are whether we leave or remain.  Neither does anyone else.

I don’t know what trading agreements we may or may not have: neither does anyone else.

I don’t know whether we will be better or worse off monetarily in either case.  Neither does anyone else.

There are too many imponderables in this debate; too many grey areas and far, far too many outlandish claims on both sides of the debate.

But I will say this:

  1.  It’s my belief that if we are outside Europe we will be open to far greater influence from the US.  And with Trump looming in the wings, that would be a nightmare.
  2. The Brexit side have fought very dirty; stirring up the worst fears and inciting xenophobia.  Farage’s poster was the last straw for many, including Baroness Warsi:
  3. On balance – and it is a balance – I believe that workers’ rights and human rights in general will be better protected if we remain.
  4. There has been a great deal of misinformation on both sides but probably more on the Brexit side.  They have persistently referred to the EU as ‘unelected’, forgetting that we elect Euro-MPs every few years.  Maybe they don’t bother to vote in those elections.
  5. the idea of ‘going it alone’ is a fantasy.  Much of the Brexit campaign seems to hark back to a nostalgia for colonial times when Britain was a power in the world.  That time has gone.  We are now a small outpost of Europe.  We belong to Europe geographically and culturally; it makes sense to belong politically and economically.
  6. er
  7. that’s it.  Get out and vote.  But vote remain.

Kirk out

In the Midst of Comedy, We Are Cancelled…

Words fail me.  Well, almost: yesterday, oblivious to national events, I was chatting on Facebook and saw where someone was offering two free tickets to see Eddie Izzard.  Two free tickets to see Eddie Izzard?  How often does that happen?  Turns out he’s doing a tour of universities as part of the EU debate; the tour is called ‘Stand up for Europe.’  So I got the tickets and hared down to the university only to find the event was cancelled.  ‘Circumstances beyond our control,’ the porter said phlegmatically.  I’ll say: for, awaiting Daniel’s pizza I found out why.

Any prose words would just be banal, so here’s the poem I’ve written about it.

For Jo Cox, MP

Murdered 16/6/16


if we had words to gather
and ravel up a life
knit the years as yet unlived
slit by gun and knife:
if we had wool to work it
to stitch it, row on row
a life cast off too early,
the pattern yet to show
If we could knit it better
back and front and arm
if by the stitches of our hearts
we could undo that harm:
for were you then so evil?
corrupt, self-serving, dark?
and had you then deserved a bullet
so to find its mark?
No palaces at Westminster;
you had a narrow barge
your heart went out to Syria
because your soul was large
There is a Birstall everywhere
you’re everyone’s MP;
democracy’s shot down today
outside your surgery

So there are no words to gather
just the silence that is grief
as we stand here, head to shoulder
with shock and disbelief
our verses stumble, fall down
and die within the breast;
speak only what is in our heart
and silence is the rest.

RIP Jo Cox

(c) Liz Gray, 2016



Happy Bloomsday, Happy Birthday and a Great Pair of Shoes

Here are two of yesterday’s highlights: a card hand-made by Daniel and some DM’s sent by Holly.  I have been wanting DM’s for years, so that was great, and the card was excellent.  In the evening we went to Mirch Marsala where for once I departed from tradition and had a Mexican dish.  It was delicious.  And so to the Phoenix where we saw ‘The Daughter,’ a film based on an Ibsen play.  It was a bit odd, and slightly dull in parts if I’m honest:

But a good evening.  And today is Bloomsday, a time for celebrating Joyce’s masterpiece in which all the action takes place on one day.  Would that it only took one day to read it…

So, in between writing these posts and revising a novel, I take time out to do crosswords.  Cryptic puzzles are excellent for stimulating the creative mind and particularly for writing poetry as they focus on how words are put together; synonyms, backwards words, mixed-up words and homophones all feature regularly too.  But sometimes, no matter how long I look at it, I fail utterly.  For example, with this clue:

woodworker’s supporter observed taking addictive drug (3-5)

Woodworker was easy as ‘saw’ fits with ‘observed.’  But the rest?  Not a clue.  I had to google in the end, whereupon I discovered that not only is a saw-horse a support structure, but ‘horse’ is slang for heroin.  Who knew?

I didn’t.  The other week the Times had a clue for bedding, to which the answer was ‘ticking’.  What?  Ticking?  What the hell is that?

Sometimes I think they just make words up.

Kirk out

PS I was going to blog about the referendum but I just cba



Art-house: Extraordinary Art in Ordinary Houses

The annual Art-house exhibition has just closed (as of ten minutes ago).  In previous years I haven’t managed to look properly at this demonstration of local art in local houses but this year I pushed the boat out (almost literally, given the amount of rain) and made it to every house on the list.  About a dozen homes in our area opened their doors to showcase local artists of different persuasions: painters, sculptors, crafters, print-makers, card-makers, jewellery makers and woodcutters.  It’s a very interesting selection and although I didn’t like everything I have to say there was not a bullshitty installation in sight: even the abstracts were paintings I could relate to.  I had some good conversations; one with an artist whose inspiration comes from computer graphics and who uses the pixellated images in his final renderings of oil on canvas – and today I chatted to a sculptor who had some lovely and very tactile pots made of plaster casts dipped in slip and then glazed.  I love pots, especially pots you can touch: this house is full of my (admittedly imperfect) efforts and I especially like the fact that it’s art you can use every day.  There was one woman who had carved a load of spoons and bowls: I asked her how she achieved such a smooth surface with only a chisel and she said rather sniffily that practise makes perfect.  It was intended as a compliment but I’ve observed that some people don’t like you asking about their techniques.  So I moved on…

Anyway, if you didn’t make it, here’s what you missed:

I’m all alone today because Thing is in Loughborough.  Still, it’s my birthday on Wednesday and I’ve just received a very exciting present in the post!!!

Kirk out

What? 23 years? How did that happen?

Apparently it is 23 years today since we stood up in the Friends’ Meeting House and declared our intention to be bonded for life (or ‘manacled together’ as Basil Fawlty puts it.)  I was wearing blue silk and Mark was in Indian-style trousers and silk shirt with Indian sandals which fell apart on the way to the venue as it was raining!  My outfit held up well: not so the wedding video (which we only had done because Mark’s brother couldn’t make it).  The camera’s batteries ran out just as we were standing up to take our vows, and the person videoing hadn’t brought any spares: hence our wedding video is remarkable for not actually containing the wedding ceremony.

It was a beautiful occasion though; and after the photographs we went to the Rainbow and Dove for the reception.  The entire wedding cost £200: a couple of people were rather sniffy about that.  These people went on to spend thousands on their wedding and I have to report (with no smugness at all) that they are now divorced.

And then the honeymoon.

Oh, what a honeymoon!  Will I ever forget it?


We had no money and as my parents had paid for the wedding we couldn’t really ask them to stump up, so we signed on with a lift agency and waited.  And waited… in the end we set off and got to Madrid (where all my stuff was, since I’d just left thinking I’d be back again) in four days.  We slept on floors mostly and people were quite bemused to see me with a husband in tow since I’d left before Christmas and they had no idea I was married.  Well, hitching back wasn’t such a breeze: we got stuck in Burgos for eight hours and I broke my guitar climbing into the back of a lorry.  Mark then promptly fell asleep while I fended off the advances of the lorry driver, all the while trying to nudge my loving husband awake again.  Back in Paris, we had just enough money for a cheap hotel, and so to Boulogne where we scraped together the cash for the return fare.

Disaster.  For some dastardly and inexplicable reason the return fare was MORE than the outward fare.  I guess they just didn’t want to let us go…  It was awful; at one point Mark thought he’d have to sell the wedding ring I’d bought him in India* and at that disastrous thought he stood in the terminal and wept.

Oh dear.  We went back to the desk and explained our predicament.  Fortunately there was a cheaper ferry at night, so we hung around and got that one.

On our return my father-in-law, whose sole contribution to the wedding had been to take some photos, asked when we were going to pay him for them: while everyone else just said ‘well, if you can make it through that, you’ll probably be OK.’

I deserve another honeymoon, a proper one this time.  I think we should go to Venice.

Still, it serves a purpose: nowadays whenever we have a hard time we always say, ‘never mind: we’ll always have Burgos.’

Kirk out

*It got squashed in the end, but it was very thin

An Evening In

I can’t believe it’s over a week since I last blogged!  It’s been an eventful week here in lizardyogaland, what with the sunshine tempting me outdoors most of the time to write and dream and practise poems and garden; and what with my father-in-law not being too good which means that most days, Thing has been over in Loughborough.  We have to make time tomorrow though because it will be our 23rd wedding anniversary!!!  We haven’t made any coherent plans but I guess we’ll find something good to do.  On Wednesday, however, as it’s my birthday (not quite 60 yet)

(long pause for sobbing into hands…

Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god)

we are going for a meal and then to the cinema – the Phoenix, a proper cinema unlike these huge megaplex places which feel like supermarkets and where they shove you so full of adverts and trailers and thrust popcorn and enormous fizzy drinks into your face until you feel ill.  I shall tell you about the film nearer the time – but it looks really good.

In the meantime I’m feeling slightly alone and small.  This morning was good – we went to Tomatoes and did the crossword as per, with Tony who’s my crossword buddy.  More and more people have been joining in with this though and at one point I vacated the table to get a cuppa only to find my place taken by a usurping wannabe crossword-completer!

Errol, how could you?

So after that I came home and straight out to mooch around the local Arthouse scene, where local people open up their houses to exhibit local art.  There was some good stuff – pottery, sculpture, painting (mostly painting) and crafty things and I had a chat with an artist who based his images on graphics and then transposed the ideas onto canvas using oils; an interesting mix of modern and traditional.  And in all the houses there was not one thing which struck me as bullshit – no lengths of yarn stretched across the room and entitled ‘Blue Day’ or something much less sensible.

There’s a lot of art I like although not being a particularly visual person it can be an effort to look at it sometimes.  I like Grayson Perry a lot though.  He has a series on Channel 4 about extreme masculinity, where he goes into environments which are hyper-masculine (cage fighting, the floor of the Stock Exchange, that sort of thing) and then produces some art about it.  The interesting thing was that after the Stock Exchange visit which he decided was all about men trying to prove themselves, he produced a giant penis – but the penis was quite rounded.  So it looks as if he can’t be hyper-masculine even when he tries.  Anyway, here’s the programme:

Other artists I like are Anthony Gormley, Anselm Kiefer and Louise Bourgeois.  Hang on, those are all sculptors, aren’t they?  I think they are…

Kirk out


Orton Ornot?

Regular readers of Lizardyoga’s blog will be only too familiar with this particular rant of mine, but bear with me because there is a new twist.  It has been mooted that the old Haymarket theatre, which has been hanging around with nothing to do, should be resurrected in some form.

I could never quite understand why they found it necessary to close it in the first place and replace it with some steel-and-glass monstrosity which looks far more like a conference centre than (oo! the words ‘conference centre’ have triggered another rant, but more of that later) than a theatre, and instead of calling it after Leicester’s most famous playwright, Joe Orton, to call it by the spectacularly unimaginative name of The Curve.  By that token the new bus station would be called The Swerve, the Highcross Centre The Sprawl and Town Hall Square, Town Hall – oh wait.  But you get the drift.  There was a perfectly good Leicester-born and -bred playwright screaming for a theatre to be named after him, and instead they opted to name it after its shape.  Shame on them.

So I think I’m going to launch a campaign, if they do resurrect the Haymarket, for it to be named the Orton Theatre.  He deserves no less.

Oh, and the other rant is concerning a certain local religious centre which seems increasingly more concerned with hosting conferences than it does with supporting the homeless.  Nuff said…

Kirk out

Map My Ride

As I commented yesterday, I’m not a fitness fanatic.  I rather smirk at those people with devices strapped to their upper arm measuring heart-rate, calorie expenditure, respiration rate, ml of sweat lost, distance of hairs from upper arm, and who knows what else.  I can’t help thinking that all this measuring is at the expense of simply experiencing: surely you can feel if your heart-rate is increasing and your breath is coming faster?  Can’t you tell if you are sweating?  I worry that the more we rely on devices to tell us what is going on, the less we will be able to simply tune in to our bodies and experience what they are telling us.

It’s similar, in a way, to maps vs satnavs.  I like looking at maps because they help me to interpret where I’ve been and put it in the context of a wider area.  There’s a hinterland to my journey whereas all a satnav wants is to get me from one point in space to another point in space using the best available route.  There’s no context to this; it assumes no interest in the landscape, just the simple logistics of getting from point A to point B.  I feel the same about printing out a route on Google: navigating with just a piece of paper leaves me feeling naked.

Then again, I’ve always been bad with instructions.  They don’t work out for me, partly because I resent them and partly because I question them.  What if the person I’m supposed to meet isn’t there?  What if the milk doesn’t curdle?  What if the part I need is missing?

I demand the right to be flexible – which means, in the context of travelling, having a map.  If you have a map you understand the hinterland; you know the alternatives available to you.  A map is power in your hands.  So having done my bike ride, I immediately wanted to find out how many miles I’d done and what the route looked like.  Because although I could feel how many miles I’d done – especially the next day (!) I guess a part of us wants to have our experience verified by external sources.  I wanted to be able to say ‘I cycled fifteen miles’ instead of ‘I went on a long bike-ride.’

So, all of this brings me, in a roundabout way, to insecure writers day.

Yes, it’s that time of the month again, when all writers experience a surge of insecurity hormones.  We write something which we feel is brilliant, insightful, interesting – and immediately we want to share it.  We want our thoughts verified by others – which generally means we want to be published.  But, by ignoring the satnav of ‘how to get published’ and looking at the hinterland; the history and geography of our art*, I’ve found another route: and that is performance.  Performing poems has given me a direct relationship with an audience who appreciate (and occasionally don’t appreciate) my work.  I get an immediate response which, though I enjoy comments on this blog, feels so much more powerful.  There’s something about being in the same room as your audience; seeing, hearing and feeling their response.   It’s so much better than words on a page.

So please, if you’re in or near Leicester, come and see, hear and feel my words at these upcoming Artbeat events:

  1.  Poetry on Toast, Sunday 19th June, 5 pm at Fingerprints cafe
  2. Comedy Night, Monday, 20th June, 8.30 at Cultura cafe

See you there!

Kirk out

* I’ll come back to this.  I’ve rambled enough for one day