For One Night Only, For Those Who Are Out Every Night

I shall not begin by asking you, dear reader, what you are doing for Christmas as I assume most of you are like us doing very little. We have reluctantly decided not to see our daughter and family this year as it’s not worth the risk and it’s heartening to see many people coming to the same conclusions. So a big cheer to all of you and hugs to those facing the season alone. I hope you can find someone to zoom with at least.

Big boos this week to Jacob Rees-Mogg (need I say why?) and Priti Patel (just for being herself but also for deporting people in the middle of the night and not understanding why people might care about this). But let’s forget about this pathetic excuse for a government for a little while and think for a moment about those who not only have no-one to see at Christmas but nowhere to be. Crisis at Christmas isn’t even happening this year so god only knows what it’ll be like for the homeless. There’s a woman I see in Loughborough selling the Big Issue: I don’t know her name but she appears Middle-Eastern. She has two children and lives in a caravan – and she’s one of the lucky ones. I’d better not think any more about this government or I’ll spend the whole post ranting. Anyway, for one night only (I’m going to take it down tomorrow as some publishers won’t accept posts published on your blog) I’m going to share with you a poem called Spike. This was written when I was Poet in Residence at Sound Cafe, a homeless project in Leicester, and was performed as part of a homeless mass at Leicester Cathedral. Here is is:


(first performed at a homeless concert in Leicester Cathedral, a response to anti-homeless spikes in doorways)

There’s a spike in the figures today

rough sleepers are up

in the early dawn

before the cleaners come

to clatter up the cans

and bin the burger-boxes

before the real people come:

the ones who count

the ones who work

the ones who earn

the ones who pay.

Pick up your bed and walk away.

There’s a spike in the figures today

poor people are up

in the early morning

before the bailiffs knock

to clear out the beds

and change the locks

before the real people come:

the ones who rent

the ones who work

the ones who earn

the ones who pay

Pack up your stuff and go away.

There’s a spike in the figures today:

the unemployed are up

in the late morning

to wait in line

for a face-to-face with a face behind glass;

the glass says, Go away:

these jobs are for the real people;

the ones who fit

the ones who work

the ones who earn

the ones who pay.

Fold up your forms and go away.

And the afternoon comes on

And the rain sets in

And the jobless go home

And time drips by

There are spikes in the doorway at dusk;

they have grown there all day

like silver bulbs pushing through concrete.

The bulbs say, Go away:

this space is for the real people,

the ones who count

the ones who work

the ones who earn

the ones who pay.

Pick up your feet and walk away.

And the evening comes on

and the rain sets in

and the clubbers come out

in their sleeveless shirts.

There’s a man on every doorway

and the man says, Go away.

This club is for the real people;

the ones who join

the ones who work

the ones who earn

the ones who spend.

Pick up your bags and walk away.

And the night comes on

and the rain sets in

and the clubbers go home

and the doorman

locks the door.

There’s a man on a bench tonight:

worn out by the world, he sleeps.

No-one wants this man

he is moved on from place to place

he is down and out in London

and everywhere.

And the real people,

the ones who count

and the ones who rent

and the ones who fit

and the ones who join

and the ones who work

and the ones who earn

and the ones who spend

and the ones who pay

and the ones who sing

and the ones who chant

and the ones who kneel

and the ones who pray:

they are all asleep

in the deep of night

but the son of man

has nowhere to lay his head.

(c) Sarada Gray, 2012

Kirk out

PS You’ll be relieved to know the car passed its MOT

B-e-a-utiful Beatidudes

Yes, I did write beati-dudes by mistake and then I thought it was a good portmanteau word so I kept it.  Last night’s Beatitudes concert was amazing!  It was a mass for the homeless which took place in Leicester Cathedral and what was particularly brilliant about it was the coming-together of professional – or at least highly accomplished – singers and musicians with the amateur but enthusiastic and also stunning Sound Cafe choir.  The professionals shone in their way and we in ours – and no, that isn’t being patronising; we really did.  The two soloists, Beryl and Giles, sang from the very core of their being, and everyone else put their entire heart and soul into the work.  Considering that we’d only been properly rehearsing for three weeks, the result was truly amazing, and all the credit for this must go to Helen.  Helen is not so much an enthusiast as a force of nature; able to enthuse and engage people from all across the social and musical spectrum, from the all-clerical choir 8tave to the secular and highly-polished ensemble Amici; from the percussionists and soloists who performed the Beatitude Mass in the second half to the rainbow coalition which is the Sound Cafe choir, it all gelled.  And it worked.  I could never bring something like that together in a million years; let alone organise all the rehearsals, entry and exit of instruments and people, not to mention the food that was laid on for us in between rehearsal and performance so that we didn’t have to go home.  There was even a room for us to keep all our stuff safely while we performed; though I was a little startled to find it full of clerics of both sexes in various states of undress, all gaily stripping down to their underwear without a scrap of self-consciousness.
Gosh.  We never had that in my day…
My poem, ‘Spike’, was very well-received and a lot of the credit for that must go to Andrea.  Andrea is an Italian student who learnt to play the djemba, or African drum, on the banks of the river in his native Napoli, and he’s very good at it.  The drum and the poem work very well together, and now I’m really looking forward to Sonja setting the poem to music.
The audience were great: really supportive and enthusiastic and in the end they didn’t want to leave – we practically had to shove them out of the door so that the cathedral could be prepared for today’s services.  Bishop Tim got up and spoke, which must have been hard for him as he has recently lost his daughter.  He is, however, a great supporter of the project.
There will be photos at some point, and both radio Leicester and the Mercury were there, so I will be posting photos and links when they appear.  Here’s a preliminary report from the Mercury: I’m not in the photo because I wasn’t there on Wednesday.
If you were there last night, thanks so much for coming – and if you weren’t, you missed a great evening.  Part of the proceeds of the evening went to One Roof Leicester: you can donate online to them here:
I’m not sure how you can donate to Sound Cafe online: a google search turns up this blog at the top of the list.  But if you’re in Leicester and free on a Wednesday afternoon, come along to St Martin’s House.
Kirk out

The Progress-bar of Sisyphus

Well, I found something out yesterday: you can’t blog in the library.  Who knew?  There was I, imagining myself to be broadcasting to my people from the reading-room, when not only did it fail to publish, it didn’t save the draft either!  I clicked on ‘publish post’ and the progress bar ground slowly across the screen and halted a millimetre from the end where it stayed until my time was up.  It’s like those things you install that have progress bars which, when complete, give way to more and more progress bars.  What’s the point of a progress bar if it doesn’t tell you how you’re progressing?  You can just imagine Basil Fawlty jumping up and down in rage at that one: and it made me think of Sisyphus, the guy in the Greek myth who was condemned to push a heavy rock up a mountain.  As soon as he got to the top the rock tumbled all the way down to the bottom again.  I guess you could call that a bar to progress…

So what I was going to tell you yesterday was that, further to my post on people I see every day (and Steve’s response) I actually met one of the guys in person!  I was at the Sound Cafe (see last Wednesday’s post) when Chopper Guy turned up!  He proved to be very cheerful and personable, and he told me that he used to have a motorbike but had to give it up, so now he has his chopper instead.  Look out for him in town and say hello: he’s got gingerish dreads and a huge green chopper.*  Sound Cafe was great this week: it seemed to gel a bit more and we did some communal singing (the aim is to get a homeless choir going) before I went up to do my homeless poem about the anti-homeless spikes.  It’s called ‘Spike’ and it got a great reception: one bloke said it made him cry.  Afterwards we had a poetry table and several people came along to write: one or two even read their poems out!
So after that I had two hours in town before the Left Unity meeting: hence the library visit.  On parking my bike in Humberstone Gate I got caught in a ridiculously fierce shower and got soaked because I couldn’t get my bike-lock out fast enough.  Earlier I put my bike in the bike-park: I’m pleased they’ve opened this up again.
And so to bed…
Kirk out.
*Please refrain from sniggering…