Poetry in the Grotto

One of the last places you might expect to see a grotto is on Alan Moss Rd in Loughborough.  I don’t know who Alan Moss is or was; I keep confusing him with Stirling Moss but Google says he’s a cricketer so let’s go with that.  There was a sort of sporting ‘Excuse Me’ theme to the evening as England’s football progress was marked by cheers and shouts punctuating the poetry (punctuated poetry is generally not a healthy phenomenon) but those gathered at Bill Brookman’s house for An Evening of Poetry and Chai merely brushed it off with a smile.  In another age Bill would probably have run a circus or established a theatre; he is a veritable impresario with a highly theatrical manner and a flamboyant style of dress.  As it is he runs musical and poetic evenings, and last night I and a few other poets gathered in Bill’s neighbour’s garden where the audience was sprinkled around under trees, between bushes and beside solar lights, to read (or not read, in my case) our poems.  I generally focussed on comedy, beginning with ‘What Larks’, a sort of grumpy Larkinesque whinge; then ‘The Ballad of the Bowstring Bridge’ followed, as it often is, by ‘The Ode to the Upperton Rd Bridge.’  In order to give people a flavour of the original William McGonagall piece on which this is based, Jan read a few verses of ‘The Tay Bridge Disaster’ (a piece of unintended comic genius) so that people could get the references.  Then we were straight into ‘Is Vic There?’ for Victoria Wood, and to finish we visited ‘The Lady in the Van.’  Other poets did haikus, more meditative poems (mostly free verse) and a couple of comic pieces.  There was also chai (after which I didn’t sleep) pakoras and some delicious strawberry tarts.

Here’s the William McGonagall:



Kirk out

Wood is Thicker than Walters

I’ve been watching stuff and assessing the talents of VW (‘Vic’) Wood.  And one of my favourite jokes of hers cannot easily be conveyed in print.  Talking of a particularly repressed group of women (the Finsbury Park Townswomen’s Guild, perhaps)*reacting to a slightly unorthodox shade of hat, she stops to look at the camera:

‘There’ll be an outcry,’ she says.  ‘They’ll all go ____’.  And in that moment she folds her arms, raises her eyes to heaven and goes ‘tuh!’**  Like I say, hard to convey in print.

Because she’s female it’s hard to spot that she is in fact the typical Northern comic: fast-talking, hard-hitting and down-to-earth.  Tarbie was a great fan, though the views of Les Dawson are unclear.  But she’s so much more than that, writing sketches, songs, sitcoms and perhaps best of all, pastiches.  ‘Acorn Antiques’ was a classic and I’ll never forget her skit on ‘Brief Encounter’:

She was also very generous, giving some of her best parts to other people.

Her comedy didn’t target you; it included you.  It was the sort of comedy you’d write yourself if only you were funny enough and brave enough.

Ah well, we can’t all be comics.  Some of us have to be poets.

Watch this though: it’s been on before, but it’s good.  RIP Vic, we will miss you.


Kirk out

PS the title doesn’t mean anything: I just couldn’t resist the play on words.

*I’ll be getting complaints now from the Finsbury Park Townswomen’s Guild

**I asked Mark how he would represent a ‘tut’ in writing: he said ‘I’d use a phonetic symbol.  There’s one like an ‘equals’ sign which is used in numerous African languages for clicks, and so on.’

Well, I did ask…


A Perfect Branestawm

I have rarely, if ever, seen such a perfect, spot-on and generally whiz-bang, tally-ho and ram-jam lickety-split adaptation of a book as the Beeb’s recent Professor Branestawm. I loved Norman Hunters books as a child: illustrated by the illustrious, not to say splendiflicate Heath Robinson, they were children’s comedy classics, and this adaptation everyone and everything is perfect, from Harry Hill’s Prof with his seven pairs of glasses on his forehead to his housekeeper Mrs Flittersnoop spouting malapropisms and his best friend Colonel Dedshott of the Catapult Cavaliers (Simon Day) being thoroughly military all over the place.  There were squeedles of Pagwell-based fun including an exploding but ultimately fire-extinguishing automatic tea-maker, the wild waste-paper which brings photographs to life and oodles of other stories.

It was an excellent start to Christmas Day, though later on I thought the Dr Who episode was not the best.  The dream idea was a bit drawn-out, and it was somewhat light on action.

We did have a great day, however, with Peter coming over for a thigh of turkey while we had the traditional nut-roast with sausages; all accompanied by pots, parsnips, sprouts, gravy, stuffing and cranberry sauce and washed down by Rioja.  Then there was Prosecco to go with the pudding and mince pies.

Yesterday I did little but slump in front of the telly and eat cheese: I watched Victoria Wood’s prog; very funny and featuring just about every British actor still living:


then in no particular order, ‘Chicken Run’, a couple of ‘University Challenges’ in which I scored well over a hundred points, Rory Bremner’s review of the year – brilliant – and before deciding that my eyes were square and I’d better read a book instead, we all watched ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’. This turned out to be a cracker.  There’s an unusual role for Ewan McGregor as a civil servant asked to assist in a rich sultan’s project to dam a river, irrigate the desert and bring salmon from Scotland to populate it.  It sounds like a rich man’s folly, but all his – and our – assumptions are overturned in this understated and engaging film, the best feature of which is that the two protagonists are attracted to each other but maintain a respectful distance and do not instantly fall into bed together.


Apparently Ewan McGregor had to learn fly-fishing for the film.  There are some amazing shots of salmon leaping, and also a scene where he makes a fishing-fly, which reminded me of J R Hartley.  Now, who can tell me who J R Hartley was?  Anyone?  Ms Vanilla Rose, I bet you can.  Or Tottnm.  Come on now, no googling…

Kirk out

The Nissan Placenta

Victoria Wood is on Facebook, talking about Sacharelle.  Remember Sacharelle?  It was a piss-take of a sales pitch for some range of beauty products.  Victoria Wood is pitch-perfect (ho, ho.)

What, you want a youtube link?  Oh, all right then.

Can’t find it.  But here’s my favourite ever bit of Wood.  The woman is quite phenomenally talented.

The title of this post was one of hers.  I remember I said I was going to blog about car names and I haven’t – but the Nissan Placenta says it all.  (Incidentally, my mum was offended even by that.  You couldn’t win.)

Kirk out to lunch

And is it true? It is not true

And if it were it wouldn’t do
for folk who nearly all day long
are doing something rather wrong
… I can’t remember any more

This is the postscript to Hilaire Belloc’s “Cautionary Tales”, a series of rhyming verse for children which I used to love. He’s not much read nowadays – but i used to know a lot of them off by heart. Such as:

Jim who ran away from his nurse and was eaten by a lion

There was a boy whose name was Jim

his friends were very good to him

they gave him tea and cakes and jam

and slices of delicious ham


and the end bit, which everyone knows:

And always keep a hold of Nurse

for fear of finding something Worse.

Belloc is also known for this:

Remote and ineffectual Don

who dared attack my Chesterton


He was a mate of Chesterton’s.

Found Brief Encounter on an old video-tape last night.  Also a two-minute section of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice (far superior to the anodyne Keira Knightley film – did they choose her for the name?) which proved to be recorded over.  Must get hold of it.  Really enjoyed Brief Encounter though, although the impossibly RP accents did get in the way a bit.

I think Victoria Wood did a pastiche of this.  Yes!  Here it is:

My youtube links work ok but the others don’t – and even Mark can’t find out why.

Happy Thursday

Kirk out


And is he well?  He is not well

he didn’t ring – so we could tell

nor in the library come to visit

Not much fun in winter, is it?

Last seen around Christmas Eve

We;re missing you – get better, Steve!