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Issue 329

28th MARCH 2014

FOOD FOR THOUGHT They both sat at the kitchen table. She sat opposite her husband. She had used her slow cooker to cook him a Mediterranean chicken, chorizo and apricot casserole. He sat hidden behind his newspaper picking at the food and grunting occasionally at her attempts to hold a reasonable conversation. It crossed her mind to get her cooking matches and set fire to the newspaper. That would get his attention. That would give him food for thought. Food for thought she thought and she had stumbled on a new and imaginative idea. She was not sure whether this idea was unique and original in the history of marital relations but she owned this idea, it was hers. The idea was that she was going to get meaningful communication with her husband by giving him food in exchange for his thoughts. She would give him the kind of food that would be in proportion to the kind of thought he gave back to her. She decided she would explain to her husband that in future he would have to earn his meals by his communication skills, with how he talked to his wife. The type of meal he would receive would depend on the quality of his thoughts. So "Food for Thought" would be the new exchange currency in this Kitchen economy. For example, if he said something substantial like talking about relationships or feelings he would get a substantial meal back in exchange, maybe his favourite steak and chips or his Sunday roast done like how his mom used to do it. If he said something sweet, perhaps noticing her new hairstyle or complementing her on her cooking he would get a special pudding, say crème brûlèe or his favourite roly-poly with custard. But if he said something unappreciative or nasty he would end up with a horsemeat microwave pie and sauerkraut inappropriate both as a combination and in terms of human health. If he said nothing he would be allowed to starve to death. She was now ready to put her "Food for Thought" proposal to her husband "Darling" she said "I think we need to talk!" "not now Luv Champions’ League is on in a minute". She wondered where she had put her matches as she dug her nails deep into the kitchen table. "He will burn here or in hell" she thought, in a not very wifely sort of fashion.

March 2014 Paul Pittam


Random words : paint, day, biscuit, song, Michaelmas, rhapsody, farmyard, chestnut Assignment : Dialogue exercise, write up one side of a telephone conversation

WORLD POETRY DAY: Forward Poetry Giveaway Cover Getty Images G Clementine

World Poetry Day was celebrated on the 21st March 2014. Did you attend an event, or celebrate in any way? Forward Poetry is marking this day by giving away three poetry books to three of our newsletter subscribers! All you have to do to enter is send your details to prizedraw@forwardpoetry.co.uk and the winners will be announced in next month's newsletter. The titles up for grabs are 'Selected Poems' by Paul Farley, 'Tyger, Tyger and Other Much-Loved Poems you Half-Remember' by Ana Sampson and 'The Oxford Treasury of Classic Poems (ideal for children)'. Good Luck! Enter Now: prizedraw@forwardpoetry.co.uk

What a joy to see the spring bulbs and blossom after all the rain this winter! Facebook Chuckles: A man's home is his castle, in a „manor‟ of speaking; Practice safe eating - always use condiments; Shotgun wedding - A case of wife or death; A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy; A hangover, is it the wrath of grapes?; Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play. Does reading while sunbathing make you well red?; Definition: democracy = your vote counts, feudalism = your Count votes; Is a chicken crossing the road poultry in motion?; If you don't pay your exorcist, do you get repossessed? With marriage she gets a new name and a dress; Is a Local Area Network in Australia - the LAN down under? Money‟s tainted - it ain‟t yours and it ain‟t mine; Once you've seen one shopping arcade, you've seen a mall; Do bakers trade recipes on a knead-to-know basis? Fascinated to watch a pair of very young magpies stripping twigs from a plum tree to make a nest at the very top of a neighbour‟s 30ft fir tree. So sad when a dying person is lashing out in all directions, truly raging against the dying of the light. A dear friend afraid of passing far too young brought to mind this poem ...

Let me die a youngman's death not a free from sin tiptoe in candlewax & waning death not a curtains drawn by angels borne 'what a nice way to go' death from "Let Me Die a Youngman's Death" (1967)

Roger McGough http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_McGough Ah the joys of becoming a pensioner ... a free bus pass and a self-monitoring kit for collecting poo samples for bowel cancer screening arriving in the same batch of post. I wish folk who ask me to sponsor them for charity would do something useful for the money, instead of just shaving off their hair, or staying silent for twelve hours. Why don‟t they sweep the streets or tidy old people‟s gardens?

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Walking along John Amery Drive and noseying at the front gardens is like visiting a botanical gardens. I‟m no expert but I counted a couple of magnolias, camellias, little blue knobbly bulb flowers, forget-me-nots, and a whole host of other flowers I don‟t know the names of, or can‟t spell for toffee.


Odd thoughts on filming Monday (10/3/14) one of the folks in the weekly workshop mentioned St. Paul‟s Cathedral and how we now used the 'New' one because the 'Old' one had burned down. In the way that these things happen it threw my mind back a few years... to about 1995. I was sitting on some rickety wooden scaffolding, whose bindings didn't look at all professional to me. I knew that because I'd been an instructor on knots and lashings a few years earlier. Chatting to a mason putting the finishing touches to the dome of the 'Old' St. Paul's and looking down on the roof of the nave and the City of London spread out below us. We were discussing the state of the nation, about our continental brethren, and if the beer was the same. We concluded it wasn't, and anyway there was a flying Dalek hovering and it was time for him to get back to work and for me to go home. (Have you ever noticed that once you get a plague of Dalek's they're like mice? You just can't get rid of them!) Grabbing my gear from alongside me; still wet from a winter rain storm in 61AD out of the, clear, hot, 20thC, blue, summer sky overhead, I climbed back to the ground, a journey of nearly a metre, heading; via Dickensian London, Main Street USA, and the „Dark Satanic Mills‟ as the song says, off to the car park. On the way, I was waylaid by one of the 'sound men', who asked me if I could do some shouting and swearing in Latin for the soundtrack. Even for me shouting at a pile of timber and calling it a (translated for the sake of the highly-strung) 'Load of old bones' and telling it to 'Go and get crucified' was slightly unusual. Peculiar places are film studios!

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Random Words (PMW) They had met under the town monument to the world famous polar explorer, Mungo Gerry. Annie was an animal lover, and had been there feeding the pigeons when she bumped into Bob. There was a rumour that she had dated just about every man in town, but had never found the right one. Bob wanted to give her a Valentine Day surprise, so called at her house to spirit her off for a romantic meal. When he saw her standing there, at the top of the staircase he was smitten. He quickly put out his cigarette and squirted his breath freshener spray in his mouth. The smell of stale smoke was not attractive! “Where are we going?” she asked. “To the very best food place in town.” He told her.” You‟ve not lived till you‟ve tried McDonald‟s chicken McNuggets? They‟re delicious!”

Assignment - Open to suggestion “I‟m open to suggestion,” David Cameron was reported in the press as saying last August. If you are a cynic, you might suppose the comment was a response to a political opponent or disillusioned voter, who may have said: “I‟d like to tell that Cameron where he should go!” But you‟d be wrong. The Prime Minister was actually talking about his brand new daughter and third child, born during the family‟s holiday in Cornwall, and a possible name. The baby was born a month early, by Caesarean section, at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, in Truro, and weighed in at 6lbs 1oz. The Camerons already have a daughter, six-year-old Nancy, and a son, four-year-old Arthur Elwen. Both mother and baby were well, following the birth. The proud father described the new arrival as “unbelievably beautiful”, and added that it had all been very exciting. “We thought we were going to get through the holiday and then have a baby, and then it just seemed to kick off a bit quickly.” He added that the two other children were thrilled, “Bouncing up and down, and dying to say hello to the new baby”. Samantha Cameron was said to be looking through a baby name book, and the couple were considering a Cornish name, as a tribute to her county of birth. And to disappoint those opponents, no, the Camerons did not settle on „Pasty‟ for their little girl, but Florence Rose Endellion. St Endellion was the village where the family had been holidaying. Little Flo is only the third baby born to a serving Prime Minister, since 1849. Recently, ninety guests congregated at St Mary Abbots Church in Kensington, a short trip from Downing Street, for the 45-minute baptism ceremony of the now six-month-old baby girl. Penny Wheat


Yet More New Vegetables After the mixed success with my other Beans, I wasn‟t too hopeful for the Black and White Kidney Beans that were sown very late. However, although the plants were very small they did have quite a lot of pods on them, far more than I expected. Unfortunately, the continued wet meant that they weren‟t drying off properly, so I had to pick them, de-pod them and dry them off in the house on a tray lined with dry tissue and newspapers. It took a couple of weeks for the beans to dry, but they seem to be keeping in plastic tubs all right now without going mouldy. Their vivid black and white colouring makes them look very appealing and with the previous batch of dried beans stored safely away we should be well fixed for making lots of stews this winter! The fresh Garlic cloves that I planted in pots in the greenhouse at home to start them off are shooting very well, too well really and they need to go in the ground outside, where it is a little cooler. That should happen very soon now, because the plan is to plant them at home in the space where the Blueberry bushes are being moved from. As the bushes have dropped their leaves and the Jerusalem Artichokes are being dug up on the allotments, they can be put in their place where hopefully, they will like the soil better. Although my Welsh Onions did not do so well this season as hoped for, I have decided to try another type of Onion in the coming season for fun and that is the Tree Onion, or Walking Onion. Like the Garlic, these onion Bulbils need starting off in pots before the Winter, so it means yet more pots in my little greenhouse. People often amaze me when they say they don‟t do anything much with their greenhouses other than grow Tomatoes and a few bedding plants in the Summer and then they leave it empty all Winter! What with all the Citrus, the Fig Trees, Chrysanthemums, Dahlias, Chicory and everything else in it, mine is choc a bloc now! Another new type of plant that has been potted and will be over Wintered in the greenhouse, are some Yacon crowns. These grow a little bit like a Dahlia in as much as they are big, bushy, tender perennials that produce storage tubers. The difference is that they produce 2 types of tubers with one type being edible and the other a non-edible type that are needed to keep the plant growing. The edible tubers can be harvested at the end of the season and eaten either raw, or cooked as in a stir-fry.

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I am also going to try a couple of different vegetables grown from seed. Root Parsley and Achoca, or exploding Cucumbers. It seems that the Root Parsley is like a slender Parsnip and is grown in much of Europe. The


Achoca is a member of the Cucumber and Melon family and like them is a vigorous climber. The packet says that although the small fruits are spined, the spines are very soft and can be ignored. The “Fruit,” can be used as an alternative to Sweet Peppers in cooking. These seeds came from a new website that I found called “Real Seeds http:// www.realseeds.co.uk/ where they specialise in seeds that will breed true to type and the seeds have not been hybridised, hence the name “Real Seeds.” The “not for profit,” company actually encourage their customers to save their own seed to replant in the coming years and even advise on how best to do this. This was of course how gardeners always used to get their seeds in the olden days before modern garden centres and seed companies. It will be interesting to see how many seedlings come up next year that are not true to type!

(Please note these blogs taken from Alan‟s websites are not in seasonal order) -o0o-

I worry and worry and worry about everything under the sun, I‟m a walking bag of nerves and I tell you, it‟s not much fun! There‟s always something wrong somewhere and I can‟t put it right, Perhaps if I mind my own business, I might sleep better at night. That missing plane, for example, one thing I can do nothing about, A very peculiar business, like the relations I‟d want to shout, „What are you doing about it? There must be more you can say.‟ I feel their pain from a distance, no news for day after day! Next, of course, is Crimea, what is going on there? Another point of conflict causing fiery tempers to flare. Worrybags here sees the black side, imagination coming on strong, There‟s never a peaceful answer to recognise right from wrong. Illness, cruelty and poverty, pain and sorrow and fear, News with graphic images, projected loud and clear. I wish I could be more sensible and consider with wisdom and wit I worry and worry and worry and I am sick of it!


Mary Portas, what has actually been achieved? Nothing, that's what. And we could all have foreseen this result because it was inevitable. Didn't the taxpayer give out a sizeable wad to restore our high streets to vibrancy and joy? So why is our 1100 year old market town still composed of little more than banks, estate agents and conglomerates? Not to mention boarded up shops. The old shopkeepers used to be the backbone of the community, but their small establishments, unable to maintain deliveries as the town grew, gave way to chains years ago. But folk didn't care because they were all acquiring cars, weren't they? And shops were becoming bigger, saving labour, building car parks. Life was moving on. Sad, some might say, but unavoidable. Of course we'd all like to stroll among thatched roofed emporia with tin baths hanging picturesquely outside, with a real fishmonger, a butcher selling local produce, but we sure as hell don't want to rely on them. Not when we've got to be back at work in half an hour. No, we want the practicality of one stop supermarkets with a rapid turnover ensuring everfresh produce and low prices, low queuing times. Or a big specialist shed where we can buy everything for the house beautiful in one easy movement, confident we are on trend. It's all such fun – flower printed dustpans for example - and it smells wonderful. That's where to put your money, said those who had any. But even they are feeling a bit of a chill now, and here's why. My grandson, who is quite skinny in spite of the masses of food he puts away, regularly emerges from the swimming pool shivering like a vibrating guitar string. A flung towel does something to alleviate the situation as we search for a cubicle, but what he really needs, I realised last Saturday, is a nice thick bathrobe. So out I set. Marks and Spencer’s was my first call. 'Obviously,' said my memory. 'Such good quality, such choice.' Well! The children's section is reduced to a few rails and the only bathrobes were made of some fluffy polyester stuff and coloured bright pink. I imagined his reaction. Anyway, bathrobes are meant to be made of towelling which absorbs water; polyester is manufactured to resist it. So I went to the town's only other source of children's clothes, i.e. the three supermarkets. One had the fluffy job and the other two had no robe of any description. I almost bowed to defeat, but suddenly thought of the out-of-town shed which I remembered as housing a vast rainbow of towels, flannels, and yes, bathrobes. Joyfully I covered the extra mile, only to find the rainbow reduced to black, white or grey and the sizes small, medium and large. Adult. Plenty of scented candles, loads of faux leather bean bags, tons of metal flowers and gloriously decorated mirrors. But nothing to warm a shivering little boy. So I caught the bus home and went on the internet. There I found a fellow sufferer crying from the heart, 'Where oh, where do I find a child's towelling bathrobe?' And several answers. So it's no use, Mary dear, trying to turn the clock back. We need our needs to be met, not altered by purveyors of pretty things or artisan bread. And it's no use, supermarket owners, employing George or Gok Wan and then trying to persuade us we want their offerings. We want what we want and we'll go where we can get it and we don't give a damn about your declining profit margins. Well, most of us don't anyway.

Anne Picken


“Well, on a night like this a glass of champagne seems de rigueur, doesn‟t it?” Charles smiled his thin smile. If there was anywhere on the planet he wanted to be, it wasn‟t here. Avoiding people he knew at a college masquerade ball was like pinning the tail on a donkey. But April was being April, as usual. And now she was dipping a cocktail stick with a cherry into a glass of bubbly and talking far too loud, of course, she was. If only April had been driving the Merc that night instead of Abigail. How different things could have been.

‘Nuts’ is the name of a men’s magazine. It’s found on the top shelf, where it cannot be seen. A macaque, baboon, ape or chimpanzee, Will like to eat nuts for its dinner and tea. If you are a mechanic or engineer, Nuts and bolts will be used in the course of your career. A’ nut’ can be someone who’s a bit of a joke. But I rather admire those eccentric folk.

JACK VETTRIANO: A CELEBRATION Paintings from Past and Present Exhibition at Heartbreak Gallery, London 29th March - 1st June 2014 Heartbreak Gallery, London will be hosting an exhibition of twenty paintings by Scottish artist, Jack Vettriano, curated largely from private collections. Many of the paintings featured in this exhibition are touring on loan to Heartbreak, following the recent Retrospective of the artist‟s work held at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow, which received a record-breaking 130,502 visitors during its 5 month run. http://www.heartbreak.co.uk/2010/03/vettriano-acelebration/


Year 1589 : The Cast : The Queen‟s Men : a group of strolling players thrown out of London where the theatres have been closed due to an outbreak of plague. Elizabeth I was on the throne. Kit Marlowe (wordsmith/detective), Harry Swann (the murderer of thefirst victim who first found the chalice) Samuel Burball (Owner), Peter Pecksniff, Daniel Alleynes, young Hal who plays a girl‟s role very badly. Vesta Swann, Rosie Rippsheet. The Boar‟s Head Tavern, Trentby: Bertha landlady, Molly Golightly, Martha Goodnight wenches. Ned the bear keeper. The Trentby Abbey of St Jude : Abbot Ranulf knows something about the missing Roman hoard of silver plate/chalice etc The Manor of Bluddschott : sodden Squire Darnley Bluddschott, wife Mistress Anne, daughter Penelope about to be sold off into matrimony, Mistress Hood seamstress, sister to Penny, Mistress Tatanya The Sheriff‟s Castle : Magistrate Squire Humphrey Pettigrew, Black Knight, the Sheriff Burrowmere Lord Haywood, man-at-arms Richard of Hyde Leigh, a constable Daniel Smithers and a scribe Modern Day: Rick Fallon and Tommy Tip-Tip McGee** Private eyes in Trentby on case for Sir Kipling Aloysius Bluddschott (Sister Christobel) to locate silver chalice and Roman hoard of Trentby Abbey + corpse Jago Swann DI Pete Ferret and Lavender Pomeroy and Rose Rippsheet

PLEASE NOTE: It is imperative that those writing for the storyline read what other writers have already written before they add a new piece. AND the year has been changed and Moll Rippsheet has become Rosie.

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THE ANKH ACW Kit Marlowe asked the antiquarian, „What strange pagan symbol this be?‟ The antiquarian replied, „A symbol of the great Pharaohs of Egypt, of pagan superstition, an amulet to ward off death, but also a fecundity hope.‟ Kit, “But would a man not of letters, know of such things?‟The antiquarian chuckled, „Nay, not at all.‟ Kit, „Were not gypsies found also in Egypt?‟The antiquarian, „Yes, indeed, as lowly there, as here. A surly, perilous lot, a danger to all who fall foul of their nefarious immorality.‟ The antiquarian‟s clerk, overhearing, chimed in, „Pardon me Sire, but the gypsies are camped out in the wastelands.‟ Kit, „Then methinks a visit is called for.‟ The antiquarian warned, „Why risk life and limb. Even your clothes will be temptation to do away with you. Better to go by the ale house by village green, where each day gypsy women ply their trade to sell lucky four leaf clover, pegs or read a fortune in the palms of your hands.‟ Kit, “I will seek them out. Thanks be, antiquarian.‟ Antiquarian, „You‟re most welcome.‟ Just as said, indeed gypsies were plying their trade by the Boar‟s Head. Approaching a wizened hag, Kit dropped a groat for a lucky charm, an Ankh and asked, „What luck does this amulet give, woman?‟ Gypsy, „Sire, a most manly vigour, but see you dip your wick with care, as such luck will ye find of your marriage bed bearing issue of son and heir to your good self.‟ Kit, „Ah yes! And I saw such a tattoo on a man of your people. Where did he come by such a pagan sign?‟ Gypsy, „Did ye see him lately, Sire, for only one amongst us bore the sign and he not be with us for many days now?‟ Kit, „I saw him but once. Does he come from afar or be he one local amongst you?‟ Dropping a further groat in her boney palm. Gypsy, „A foreign merchant sought him out on Africa‟s shores, but he escaped that kidnap when moored in good old England, Sire. We fear the merchant has him again, poor soul.‟ After Kit had gone on his way, another gypsy turned to her and asked, „The playwright asked a lot of questions for just a missing gypsy, did he not?‟ Old gypsy, „He did at that.‟ The play Tambourine at Bluddschott Hall

Samuel Burball introduced Kit Marlowe‟s short play “Tambourine” for the Squire Bluddschott‟s and invited great and good‟s entertainment. Lying artfully before the stage set‟s curtains at the stage‟s front edge, were the unmoving bodies attired as gypsy woman and serving wench, being a dummy prop and Hal.


The cast list were: Samuel Burball, Magistrate and Vicar Kit Marlowe, the Constable Dogberry Daniel Alleynes, the Physician Peter Pecksniff, the Coroner Hal, serving wench corpse plus dummy as gypsy woman‟s corpse Burball came from stage left to centre stage and the gathered hushed to hear. The Prologue: „May my prologue not the ladies afright, for such scenes will be but described and then but gentle speech portrayed. „A bedraggled wretch, her gypsy dress all patches and concealing ribbons, snatched the knife hidden in her tambourine as she danced behind her luckless lady fair victim and sunk it to the hilt into her back, only to then find no chinks to show for it. „Not a tear shed, no sadness crossed sly slits of eyes only filled with disappointed sullen hate. „A shadow flickered to give warning, but too late. A blow to her head felled her and oozed out her life, for her to join beside her victim. Her last sight in life being a man‟s swarthy arm bearing a strange tattoo, of a circle, a cross, both together. May indeed we foreswear against that hell must be empty as all the devils be out. „Comes forth the Constable, Physician, Magistrate and Coroner to deal in dignity with the fallen for public decency and the Vicar for Christian pious pray for the souls of the departed.‟ Burball bowed deeply and left stage right, and was then concealed by the curtain behind the stage with all other players. Kit Marlowe as Constable Dogberry came from stage left followed by the Physician, as the Magistrate accompanied by the Coroner came from stage right and stood by the two prone figures at front of stage centre. Dogberry, „Curses, yet another brigand loose, and now he‟s doing them down two at a time.‟ Physician, „What fool cut purse seeks ill gotten chinks from lowly gypsy girl and a serving wench, by her attire hardly a scullery maid?‟ Magistrate, „We need not concern ourselves with these lowly nobodies then, as neither were quality in society.‟ Coroner, „Cause of death, failed to thrive, penury and want.‟ The Magistrate strode off stage left whilst the remaining stood with respect over the prone bodies. The Vicar strode on forth from stage right. Vicar, „The Magistrate gave me account of these sad affairs on these lower orders, but at least they now be less burdensome folk on us all by surplus population.‟ Coroner, „Indeed.‟ Epilogue: spoken by Burball, „What sorry lives our common women suffer and men make worse. Yet what care we, for only title and breeding count Sire, indeed.‟


Christabel and Kipling Modern Times As Fallon first goes to see the Bluddschotts The library also had big doors, with big round brass handles slap in the middle and the patina of ages soaked into its fibres. Fallon looked inside the cavernous room and coughed. The dust was palpable. The smell of faded leather and musty old books assaulted his nostrils. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom he realised there was someone in the room. Kipling Bluddschott was perched like some ancient crow atop a rickety ladder clinging to the far bookcase. Fallon tried his voice, it echoed and sounded far too high for a man of his age, „Fallon, your Lordship. I was instructed to come.‟ „Do you always do as you‟re told, young man?‟ chuckled Lady Christabel as she slid in front of him pulling the shawl over emaciated shoulders. „Do come down from there Kipling you‟ll break your neck, ring for Smithers.‟ Scowling Kipling Bluddschott did as he was instructed and pulled a pull, dust motes showered and far away a brass bell tinkled. Fallon shuffled towards the only light coming from windows which were half shuttered. „You rang, My Lord?‟ said a querulous voice. Fallon gasped, the butler Smithers was even older than Christabel and was bent double from the waist. The old chap could hardly walk there was no way he could go up a ladder. Why me thought Fallon, what did I ever do, why is it always me? „Kipling ... Kipling...‟ the elderly woman shouted from a fire side armchair, not that there was any semblance of a fire, Fallon had been inside warmer mortuaries. „What book did you want, dear?‟ „The thingy, of course,‟ muttered Lord Bluddschott irritated. Fallon‟s hope of a case and folding wonga dwindled into dust and ashes, this lot were bonkers as only British Aristocracy can be bonkers. „The thingy!‟ cried his sister‟s perilous treble into the silence of the great pile of the Bluddschott dynasty. There was no reply save for the echoes bouncing off the stacked bookcases and parquet floor. Smithers was still holding on to the door handle for support, the old boy was in his late eighties at a guess. It was a shock when he spoke: „The Bluddschott Historical thingy, sir?‟ The head atop the multi-coloured crochet shawl turned very slowly, „The Bluddschott Historical thingy? The patents of whatsit? The family tree thingy? Why ever didn‟t you say so Kipling?‟ „It‟s on the table, your Lordship,‟ sighed Smithers. „You asked me to get it down yesterday.‟ A pair of misty grey eyes landed on Fallon. The scrutiny was again unnerving. Lady Christabel had a way with those eyes. He expected she fully deserved her dangerous reputation: the last of the Wifford sisters was still an untamed force of nature. The woman who so very nearly brought down the royal pack of cards hadn‟t lost her fire or ice: she still had her marbles, he would concentrate his hopes on her. If there was going to be any intelligence, or the hope of a finder‟s fee, he needed to get her onboard. His only worry was what would an aged femme fatale want in return.


THE PASSING OF A COOL ACADEMIC On February 10th Stuart Hall, the brilliant cultural theorist who made his name at Birmingham University, passed away aged 82. He had completed a successful academic career as Professor of Sociology at the Open University, but it was at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham that he established his reputation as a leading black intellectual and cultural expert. I knew him from 1970-73 when he supervised my Masters degree by research. I met him shortly after the Miles Davis group had played a legendary gig at the Isle of Wight pop festival, and a shared appreciation of the jazz pioneer made an instant connection. Stuart Hall shared the charisma of famous musician, the man who invented cool jazz. Stuart was an unusual academic as, while immensely approachable, he had the flair and style of Davis at his peak. One of my fellow students once described Stuart Hall as “the coolest hipster on the campus”. As far as the lecturers of Birmingham University were concerned, he was the only academic who could be described as a hipster. He could wear the jeans and T-shirt of an undergraduate, but even though he was nearly 40 at the time it was not incongruous: Stuart Hall was not a follower of trends. He displayed immense intellectual and personal authority. Born and educated in Jamaica, he had come to England on a Rhodes scholarship in 1951 at the age of 19. He realised that both racially and socially, he was an outsider in the corridors of Oxford University. This moved him to develop politically from an instinctive anti-colonialism to a fully developed leftism which dominated his adult thinking to the end of his life. But he also acquired an sense of his intellectual power. He came to Oxford through intense competition. He had no reason to think himself inferior. When he later abandoned a PhD on Thomas Hardy and began the research in film and television which led him to write the book The Popular Arts with Paddy Whannel in 1964, he simply had interests beyond literary culture. It was this book which led Richard Hoggart, author of The Uses of Literacy (1956), to invite him to be research fellow at his new Centre. He became acting director in 1968 and director in 1972. The work of Hoggart and Hall had taken its the initial focus as the arts, whether popular or traditional, but this was broadened to an engagement in culture as historians, sociologists and anthropologists would view it. It was a massive undertaking for a small centre mainly composed of post graduate researchers in their mid twenties. There was, however, no lack of intellectual ambition at the Centre in the early 1970s, and Hall drove the agenda with flair and skill. In three years of supervision, I only recall outflanking him on a text once. On mainstream topics, in seminar, his command of the materials under discussion made him a formidable debater, never concerned with scoring points.. His approach to issues was always lucid, rational and logical, however highly charged the topic might be. It was this objectivity, rather than his visual style, which made him a cool thinker and academic. He was not interested in display. While he loved the music of Miles Davis, he would never have driven through the town centre in a yellow Ferrari as Davis used to do in Manhattan, even if he could have afforded to do so. He shared the ethos of another seventies hero, David Bowie, that style was a matter of substance not of gesture. Bowie derided the followers of fashion in the famous line “We are the goon squad and we're coming to town”. Politics, culture and intellectual life are too important to be left to passing trends. Style carries messages. He set out to decode the messages. When he left for the Open University, he left Birmingham enriched. The graduates who remained in the city, teaching and working, were one element of this. The enhanced reputation of the university was another positive. The forthcoming retrospective exhibition at the Midlands Art Centre, with a major conference in June, organised by Kieron Connell and others will demonstrate what was gained through pioneering in so many fields. Stuart Hall leaves behind a formidable reputation and ongoing debates. It is a sorry comment on the racial politics he contested vigorously that a recent survey showed that of Britain's 14,000 professors, only 50 are black. Beyond the work of the Centre and the writing that Hall did, there and subsequently, this is perhaps the biggest question his life work posed. He showed that black academics could work at the highest level. Where are the rest? It was a testimony to his own qualities that he broke through the barriers. He was inspirational, both for young black and white intellectuals. The recent film by John Akomfrah The Stuart Hall Project, tracing Hall's career from Jamaica through his arrival at Oxford to an international reputation is inspirational viewing. Tellingly, it was premiered at the Sundance Festival in the USA to a very warm reception. Stuart Hall showed that it was possible to remain intellectually sharp while reaching a wide audience. His work resonated well beyond the corridors of the academic world without ever becoming populist. His standing was widely appreciated on both sides of the Atlantic, and was fully justified. Trevor Fisher

March 24th 2014

Forthcoming commemorations. May 3rd to 27th June there will be a major exhibition on the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the Midlands Art Centre to mark the 50th anniversary. See http://www.cccs50.co.uk/about Image http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuart_Hall_%28cultural_theorist%29 June 24-25 The University of Birmingham will stage a major retrospective conference on the legacy of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. See http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/historycultures/departments/history/research/cccs/conference.aspx


Stafford Music and Creative Arts Event and Ball Fundraiser Sat 29th March 2014 Stafford Rangers Social Club – Lotus Suite Ball Ticket £5.00 7pm – Midnight Live bands Radio Mary and Northern Quarter plus international guitarist Richard Taylor. Free Daytime Craft Event and Entertainment - 10am – 4pm An event to raise money and awareness for one of our town’s iconic buildings, the Broad Eye

Windmill. The hope is that it will be fully restored and open to all. Plans are underway to restore the next floor in the building, but funds are still needed. Campaigners thought that putting on a fun event and ball/concert would not only raise the much needed money, but also demonstrate that Staffordshire really is a creative county. This is a brand new event in Stafford promising to bring an evening of fun-filled, footstomping entertainment, encouraging even more creativity through music art and dance. The daytime event is free entry with lots of different crafts to try out, including some free workshops. There are also story-tellers, pirates and musical entertainment throughout the day. There are fairies, goblins and maybe the odd knight wandering around. There will also be creative artists from around the UK and Stafford coming together to showcase their different and unique creations. The evening ball is a family-friendly event. Come dressed as creatively as you like. This is not a black tie event; wear what you are most comfortable in to have an amazing time. There will be face painting for all ages. The musical entertainment comes from much sort after festival favourites Radio Mary and Northern Quarter and guitarist Richard Taylor. Radio Mary have played live sessions on BBC radio and at many UK festivals and events. The band have played the Acoustic Festival of Britain. Soon to be recording their second album, they are not to be missed. Northern Quarter have been headlining the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury 3 years in a row. They featured on the main stage at the Acoustic Festival of Britain in 2013 and recently released their third album. Internationally acclaimed guitarist Richard Taylor is a prolific songwriter and performer. All profits will go towards the restoration of Broad Eye Windmill, Stafford. PRESS RELEASE


Short Story Part Two : A Night at the Opera

16

„I‟m very well thank you.‟ There was an awkward silence and then he said in a rush, belying his previous over-suave and slightly patronising manner, „Look, Shirley, I don‟t know if I‟m rushing you. I probably am, but I have tickets to the Opera. Well, truthfully, two tickets to one of those simultaneous streamings from The Met in New York, La Bohème. I don‟t know whether you might be interested. It‟s at seven o‟clock on Tuesday night at Golders Green Multiplex. Would it interest you? It would be so nice to share the experience with someone. I do hope you don‟t mind my asking you.‟ Shirley stood there in stunned silence. This was all a bit much. She‟d imagined a few telephone conversations, a few emails before they arrived anywhere near a date. Surely the getting to know you process was an essential first, but then, surely there couldn‟t be anything too threatening in going to the pictures and if she could order A Slow Comfortable etc. in front of a Bar full of people, surely she could take this further step. „Well, I‟m just thinking about it,‟ she said at last. „I suppose I could change one or two things around and make it. I‟m not totally sure about it though. I did have plans‟. Of course, she had none! ‟La Bohème you said?‟ „Yes, La Bohème. That‟s one of my favourites.‟ She couldn‟t admit she‟d never seen it and, in fact, had never been to an opera in her life. „I‟d bought the tickets but someone let me down,‟ he said with an unmistakable tone of hurt in his voice. Now was that genuine or was he trying to manipulate her? Well, if she drove to the Cinema, met him outside and drove herself home, nothing awful could happen surely? „Okay Gerald.‟ she said at last, „I‟d like to go. Can we meet outside the multiplex? I know where it is.‟ „Of course, and I‟m so pleased you can come. Now, how will I know you and how will you know me?‟ „I‟ll be wearing a scarlet coat.‟ „How attractive! I know, I‟ll pick a pink rose from my garden and wear it in my buttonhole. That way we won‟t miss each other, will we?‟ His tone had reverted to that avuncular assured timbre and immediately she was beginning to regret her decision. „Oh well,‟ she thought, it‟s only one evening in a cinema that was bound to be full of people. If he was insufferable, she needn‟t ever see him again. Tuesday night came and getting herself ready for her rendezvous she was torn between dread, nerves and excitement. What was he going to look like? Was he going to try and grope her? Oh dear, this was truly awful. She must have been an utter idiot to agree. Walking from the Car Park, she saw a lone man standing outside the multi-doored entrance. Was this Gerald? He was small, well, for a man, but, at least her height so that wasn‟t too bad, slender and with darkish greying hair. As she came closer, she saw the pink rose tucked into the lapel of his well-cut mid-grey suit. It was him. Well, too bad now, she was here, so she smiled bravely and waved. He waved back and came towards her, holding out a hand to shake hers. As they exchanged greetings, she notice four things particularly, his narrow, ordinary but pleasant face, his smartness, his pink and grey striped tie and though he was trying to hide it, the fact that he was very nervous. His hand betrayed it as she grasped it, for it shook a little and his eyes had trouble meeting hers. It was strange, but his nervousness made her feel more confident and she relaxed enough to chat happily to him as they strolled past the ticket checker and found seats. The cinema was pretty full and the trailers were already rolling showing operas to come in the future. „I do hope you are going to like this,‟ he said, anxiously. „Are you comfortable?‟


„Perfectly thank you.‟ she smiled back at him, „And I‟m sure I will enjoy it‟. „I do appreciate you agreeing to join me. I know it must have seemed that I was rushing you, but it seemed such a shame to waste a ticket and it‟s always so much nicer to have a companion, isn‟t it?‟ „Yes, it is and no, it was very nice of you to ask me. Quite a few people here aren„t there?‟ „Well, of course - La Bohème...‟ „Yes, very popular isn‟t it?‟ „Oh, definitely. Here we go, it‟s starting any time now. Enormous Opera House, isn‟t it?‟ „It certainly is. Aren‟t we lucky to be able to see this? What would it cost to go there in person?‟ „Oh, I know! If only! I have been to La Scala. That was an amazing experience. Here we go, the overture.‟ Not sure how she would take this new venture, she was soon caught up in the joshing of the friends in the garret, the subtitles making the action and the Italian comprehensible. The voices seemed to her virgin ear, very beautiful, but it was when Mimi appeared and her love at first sight meeting with Rodolfo got underway with some of the most beautiful music she had ever heard, that her heart started to melt and she was riveted. In the interval, Gerald looked at her anxiously. „I do hope you are enjoying it.‟ „Oh yes,‟ she enthused with complete honestly. „It‟s absolutely wonderful! I‟ve never heard such music and the voices!‟ „It certainly is a wonderful production. So you‟re not regretting coming?‟ „No, not at all. Thank you for asking me.‟ „Now, can I get you a coffee or ice cream?‟ „Actually I would love an ice cream.‟ Why don‟t you come out to the Foyer and choose what flavours you would like. Ben & Jerry do some good ones.‟ Strolling back with triple scoops of different flavours, she smiled at him. „It‟s turning out to be a nice evening isn‟t it?‟ „It certainly is. Perhaps you‟d like to come and see the ballet from Covent Garden next week. It‟s Don Quixote with Carlos Acosta. Does that appeal?‟ „Oh yes, it does. Perhaps I can treat you next time.‟ „Certainly not! Oh, I know it‟s the thing nowadays for all this going Dutch, but I like to treat a lady properly. I hope you don‟t think that‟s old fashioned.‟ „Well there is this idea that there‟s no such thing as a free lunch,‟ she ventured. „I‟m afraid I‟ve never operated like that and I hope I never will. It‟s been my pleasure to take you out, and I have to say, I‟m very glad I asked you. You‟re enjoying the Opera and so am I, and I‟m enjoying your delightful company, so for me it‟s a win win situation.‟ „Thank you. That‟s so nice of you.‟ „I mean it. I really do. Oh here we go, curtain up.‟ To be continued ...

It was the night of the Masquerade Ball, and a lovely April evening. She had gone dressed as Marie Antoinette and looked well in her glamorous costume, which flattered her figure. She was struck by a tall man, wearing a donkey mask, and was delighted when he came over. “Would you like a drink?” he asked. “Finest champagne would seem appropriate, for the ‘Flower of France?’” “Actually, I’d prefer a cherry brandy,” she replied, demurely. (PMW)


On this late March morning The sun has made an early start. Birdsong is competing with the imagined cries of springtime flowers, all vying for attention. Brazen Hussy Celandines, bronze and purple leafed, glow and thrust open their sulphur-yellow heads. Dual-toned Muscaris, stand proud in their vibrant hue; electric blue and navy. Itâ€&#x;s as though the sky has landed on earth for a few, brief weeks. A Japanese Ko Jo Mais, dotted with buds until today, sizzles with blush-pink blossom. Snake-head Fritillaries tilt and nod their purple-headed bells in a soft waking breeze. A tiny metallic fairy roused by the sound of their jingling lifts her head, just a touch, then drifts back to slumber In her violet-blue Aubrietia bed. Buddha seated at her feet remains still, at peace; unaware of the colour competition on this splendid radiant day.


The Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool & the Liverpool Echo Liverpool Hope University has partnered with Royal Court Liverpool and the Liverpool Echo to launch a major new competition to find the UK's next great playwright. This exciting new national competition is a chance for a playwright to win a cash prize of £10,000 and have their work considered for staging by one of the most prolific producing theatres in the North West. Established and new writers are eligible to enter the competition providing they enter a script that has not been professionally performed. The winning plays will be considered for production by Royal Court Liverpool. In addition to the main cash prize of £10,000, there are two Highly Commended prizes of £1,500 to be awarded at the judges discretion in the Over 21 category. There will also be an 21 and Under category with a £2,500 prize for the best submission by a young writer and two Highly Commended prizes of £500 each, awarded at the judge's discretion. Writers under 21 will be eligible for the main prize. In addition to possible production by Royal Court Liverpool, one of the winning texts will have a rehearsed reading as part of the Cornerstone Arts Festival 2014 at Hopes Creative Campus. The competition is open to any UK resident over the age of 18 and as such, we anticipate a high level of interest.* There is a £20 entry fee (£15 for 21 and Under category) to cover reading and administrative costs.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @hopepwprize Facebook: Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize *In the event of a larger-than-anticipated number of entries the judging time-scale may be extended. Details will be made available on this website and via the Liverpool Echo. See more at: http://www.hope.ac.uk/pwprize/ #sthash.lEbIV5KT.dpuf


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