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Pnuk and Disorderly
The Cardinal Cox Tour Diary
Following the publication on-line of my small collection of writing and verse, PNUK, I thought it might be an idea to arrange any “literary” related events over the summer of 2004 into a rough tour. Bit of publicity wouldn’t hurt any, I thought. So what follows is a diary of those events which sort-of tie-in.
Wednesday 2 June
While Mark Turnbull, the usual quizmaster, was away in Italy (coinciding with protests against George W. Bush) I was asked to run the pub quiz for one week. I suspect we were chosen as our team does have a good record in the quiz (used to be held at Boggarts, had moved to the Wortley Almshouse) but that Mark was one of the people PNUK is dedicated to didn’t harm.
Ideas I had for rounds, but didn’t use, included one on the Spanish Civil War
Pablo Picasso painted which mural for the Paris International exhibition and named it after the bombing of which Spanish city?
George Orwell wrote which book about his experiences of the Spanish Civil War?
International Brigades are well known, but what was the nickname of the Irish Volunteers, recruited by the IRA, who fought for Franco?
Which Manchester Punk band of the 'eighties were named after the Anarchist who killed the Archbishop of Saragossa, organised Spain’s first anarchist militia and was shot in the back on 19 November 1936?
Which American author drew upon his own experiences with the Republicans to write ‘For whom the bell tolls’?
Also thought about asking them to name five Ramones. Joey, Dee Dee, Grumpy, Sleazy, we could have argued about Paul Macartny and P.K. Ramone from Derby band Shortwave. That was nixed when people who I mentioned it to tended to say, “who are the Ramones?”
The rounds I did use were a round about children’s animated characters, (who lived next door to Rhubarb?). Then a round on punk/new wave (where did Bob Geldof lose his virginity?). Can you name five of the nine Carry On films that Barbara Windsor starred in. A round about comic book characters, (name Superboy’s dog). We finished on a connections round. There was lots of cheating going on, people complained about the questions and we carried on drawing the raffle part of the quiz until someone won the £32 prize. Don’t imagine that Mark will ask me to run it again.
Wednesday 16 June
What do you know, I’m running the quiz again. Now this time I wanted to include a round of physical challenges, see who could stand on one leg the longest, who could fit the most Brussels sprouts into their pants, that sort of thing. However, people talked me out of that.
So we had a geography round, (if you travel due west from Peterborough, which is the second country you come to?). A round on children’s book characters (where is Spot?). Name the top five in the recent best sit-com poll. A round on terrorism, (where was Che Guevara shot? The country not the part of his body). The final round was a general knowledge round that Mark Kent - my youthful assistant - wrote. Again people complained about the questions but at least the £36 was won on the first draw of the raffle tickets.
Something I forgot to mention about the Wortley Almshouse is that, back in the nineteen-twenties, a local historian worked out that it might have been the inspiration for the workhouse in Oliver Twist. Something about it being the right distance from London and that Dickens visited Peterborough about the time he was writing the book, though all he had to say about the city was to complain about the woman selling tea at the train station.
Friday 18 - Saturday 19 June
I attended the poetry and small press festival at Langley Mill in the Midlands organised by Purple Patch and Poetry Monthly. On the Saturday I read in two separate sections. In one, with Andy Robson (Krax) and Steve Sneyd (Hilltop Press), I had a chance to read a few pieces from PNUK. In the other, the Poetry Jukebox organised by Brendan Hawthorn of Read the Music, I didn’t, but after he did float the idea of producing a CD of the work we all produced.
Also over the weekend I met and chatted with Liz Loxley, now with Invisible Lipstick. In 1983 a collection came out from Faber called Hard Lines, (introduction by Ian Dury!) which Liz was in and this collection was an influence on some poets who I know. Last year, (at the same festival in Oxford), I had read with Andrew Darlington who was also included in Hard Lines. So I thought it was interesting that some people from that collection were still active.
I had intended to go to the end of the festival on the Sunday but what with problems with the trains, where I was staying wasn’t to my taste and I was starting to come down with a cold, I ended up coming home early. Over the weekend, while travelling through Birmingham, I found myself twice in bomb alerts.
Interlude: Tuesday 22 June
My girlfriend and I went to London and while in Bloomsbury, dropping some flyers into a political bookshop there (they were closed so don’t know if they would put them out) I found a couple of interesting places. The first was the building that was the inspiration of the Ministry of Truth in the book 1984. Still an ‘enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete’. Though perhaps not so glittering on the showery evening when I saw it. Then I happened to pass the building where the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded in 1848. Amongst the books that I bought while in London was Patrick Symmes’ Chasing Che in which he follows in the tyre tracks of Che Guevara’s infamous Motorcycle Diaries. It offers a fascinating view of South American politics over the past fifty years.
Saturday 26 June
The Peterborough Museum (www.peterboroughheritage.org.uk) hosted a John Clare day consisting of, in the morning, a workshop and then readings in the afternoon. The Museum also used this weekend as the launch for the poetry trail, made up of around a dozen poems I wrote while Poet Laureate of Peterborough last year, that related to objects or events at the Museum.
During the workshop I penned a poem relating to the FA’s Kick Out Racism campaign. When I read I recited some of the poems from the trail as well as some of the PNUK work. I had intended to dedicate those last poems to the ‘Swing’ rioters of Clare’s time. I had just started reading Captain Swing by Hobsbawm and Rude so wanted to mention the Sawtry, Conington, Morborne, Alwalton and Haddon riots of November 1830 but unfortunately forgot when the time came. Darn.
Diversion: Thursday 1 July
Went to a gig at The Park and saw local group called State of Freedom and, from London, The Foamers. The evening was part of the Householdname Records Summer Tour but I went home after those two bands. The Foamers are a punk band with occasional elements of Ska and Oi thrown in. Now when I was a lad, (sounding like your granddad here) Oi music attracted a right-wing following. Sure there were bands like Oi Polloi and the Redskins with overt left wing stances but on the whole…well, the fact that Oi’s great champion Gary Bushell went to work for the Sun should tell you something. The Foamers though are just a great party band who make you went to tap your feet, jump up and down and have a good time.
On the subject of Oi, where I worked a guy used to wander around in a Skrewdriver t-shirt, which is why slogan tops are officially banned. Anyway, in keeping with the Nazi-nutter theme, turned out his Dad was claiming to be an ex-SAS officer to impress the ladies and when it all started to unravel with one, he persuaded her to join him in a suicide pact. Only he didn’t commit suicide while she did. Went to gaol.
Tuesday 6 July
As part of the Peterborough Festival, Poets United, put on a performance at the John Clare theatre in the central library. This year I was the director/presenter and I chose the format of a football game. Thus it became a seven-a-side friendly match, with teams captained by George and Diana and I was the ref. Goals were awarded, a yellow card shown and the format worked sort of all right. The mayor was there, who had presented me with my trophy when I became Poet Laureate of Peterborough back when he was deputy-mayor, eighteen months ago. The evening also marked the launch of Poets United’s first collection of work Searching for the Words. Didn’t recite any poems myself this evening, pushed for time as it was, but I hope we had fun and we get some new members.
Interlude 2: Saturday 10 July
Went to the local village of Helpston, as today was the annual John Clare Festival. However it was raining and I wasn’t in the mood for joining in. So I went to the church, (which reminded me of a World War 2 pillbox), and sheltered from the heavy rain. They had photographs of the village from years ago and views of Clare country. When the rain had cleared I went to look at the grave (with the words ‘A poet is born not made’ upon it - rather ironic talking about poets beiing born on a grave slab, I thought) which had been decorated with squares of turf with flowers in. Then to a couple of pub’s, The Exeter Arms and The Bluebell, the second of which had some Morris Dancers in and a shrine to the Queen Mum, (Gawd bless ‘er). I missed the talks in the school and didn’t join the guided tour. Instead wandered around the village on my own, saw the Buttercross and Clare memorial and had tea in the village hall, where they displayed twenty years of Best Village certificates. This typified everything that is good about the village/parish; more power should be given to them with their community.
Wednesday 21 July
Mark is now on holiday in Egypt so I have to do the quiz yet again. Rounds included on the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (see below for reason). A Cowboys round, (true or false, Buffalo Bill once came to Peterborough?). The name five round was losing teams from the FA cup finals, 1990-1999. Films (The 1969 bio-pic’ Che that starred Jack Palance as Fidel Castro had who to play Che Guevara?). I finished with a connection round (from where did The Ramones get their name?).
Also today I received a mailing from a Free Stonehenge group which included a useful address list. Chose a few shops and publications and posted off a few flyers to each. Don’t know if it will do any good but you’ve got to try these things.
Interlude 3: Thursday 22 July
The central library in Peterborough held an afternoon/evening celebrating Douglas Adams and his work. M. J. Simpson, (who I’ve known for years) who wrote the Unauthorised Biography of Adams was there and later Warwick Davies (Star Wars, Willow and many more TV and films) was there as he was then being filmed as Marvin the Paranoid Android. With Mike we reminisced about a party at the World Fantasy Convention back in 1997 when we arrived before the host. So we stood there welcoming people to the party. Then the host turned up who was a touch non-plussed but we offered to dole out the wine. As for Warwick, what can I say? He comes across as a top bloke who is always willing (if he can fit it in around his busy schedule) to do things for local schools, churches, etc.
I noticed that a selection of my poems that I wrote for the previous year’s festival is still on display in the L.P. Hartley room. Can’t complain about the publicity, I suppose.
Wednesday 28 July
Hopefully this will be my last quiz night that I have to run, for some time. So it was the usual five rounds, the first of which was TV, (name the park Yogi and Boo-boo lived in?) A round of questions followed this on American Presidents, (what was the name of the first American President, if you ignore John Hanson, Boudinot, Mifflin, Lee, Gorham, St. Clair and Griffin?) Then sports round, (who lost the first World Cup for Soccer in 1930?) The fourth round was about rock and pop, (which 80’s New York band released albums Bad Moon Rising, EVOL and Sister amongst others? - I thought of a Ramones question too late to use). The last round was a connections round, but then every question or answer in the quiz related to the same connection, some how. The connection was The Simpsons.
At the end of last week the first tie-in article for PNUK appeared. I did a couple of reviews for Data Dump on The Revillos and The Stranglers (MeninBlack album) and subtitled this Punks in Space.
Tuesday 3 August
Club night for Poets United so I do a selection from PNUK, plus Kick It Out and new poem Miners’ Wives Special. Interspersed the recitations with a brief run-down of flyers, reading in Langley Mill and the articles I’ve been writing to publicise the collection. Couple of new folks along, extra good as August is always a quiet night.
Wednesday 4 August
After trying to do some publicity at the Hitchhikers’ Day, Peterborough SF Club was hoping to attract some new members so invited me to give a little talk at its’ meeting at the Bluebell Inn, Dogsthorpe. I chose Anarchy in SF as a theme, thus linking to my collection. My starting point was Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (1870), where Captain Nemo attempts to rid his beloved seas of weapons. I remember one of his other books featuring a shipwrecked group who included an anarchist who refused to lead them but instead tried to make them think for themselves. I followed this with News from Nowhere (1890) by William Morris. It features a twenty-second Britain which has become a bucolic idyll following a revolution in the 1950’s following the failure of state socialism. Next to be mentioned was Jack London’s The Iron Heel (1907) where the revolution is anti-trust, attempting to topple the fascist oligarchy which dominates twentieth century America. From the middle of the century I chose Robert Heinlein to represent the Libertarian, right-wing Anarchism, seemingly inspired by the myth of the noble cowboy, living free on the frontier, and nevermind the cattle-barons or the fate of the Native Americans. His books included Starship Troupers (1959) Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) - apparently an influence on Charles Manson - Farnham’s Freehold (1964) and Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966).
A more traditional anarchic society is presented in Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed (1974). Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson represent many different forms of anarchy in the Illuminatus trilogy (1975). Starting with Consider Phlebas (1987) Iain Banks explored the galactic wide techno-anarchy known as the Culture. Perhaps only with ultimate wealth and luxury we can achieve the freedom. Iain Banks’ school friend Ken Macleod has also written about human anarchy, which in The Cassini Division (1998) is protected by a mix of Holy Knights and International Brigade. This harks back to the socialist elite’s of some of the Fabian fantasies of H.G. Wells. Notably, the chapter titles in The Cassini Division are the titles of books I’ve already mentioned.
Well, that was the plan. To be honest here, I was the dictator of the Club through the ‘nineties, a dictator through action, ensuring that visitors came to give talks, events happened, etc. However, since I abdicated it has gone down hill and little now occurs. So members don’t come along, less happens, more leave, spiralling into slow cold death. Makes me wonder why I ever bothered. Why I did bother is that sometimes you have to try to prove that the impossible happens. Yes I’m bitter, because it doesn’t take much to keep things going, but then it takes less to destroy.
Aside: Friday 6 August
Hiroshima Day. Now Japan had become, in the first half of the twentieth century, a truly evil place. Any society that can consciously create something like Unit 731 in Manchuria has something very wrong with it. That America granted amnesty for the heads of the Unit in return for the information they held is another grim mark against the supposed land of the free. I agree that the use of the nuclear bomb probably did shorten the war and saved the lives of many allied troops and, yes, the fire bombing of some German cities did kill comparable numbers, I know all of this. I do wonder though what precisely the military value of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were.
Friday 6 - Sunday 8 August
Those mildly eccentric gentlemen from Sproutlore (www.sproutlore.com) organised a weekend of events in Brentford, London, to mark the launch of the latest book by Robert Rankin, Knees Up Mother Earth. Having the day free I thought I’d pop into a couple of places in Central London first. So in Holborn I went to the Freemason’s Hall (www.freemasonry.london.museum) in Great Queen Street. Interesting little museum covering the history and regalia of, as they put it, not a secret society but a society with secrets. Amongst the displays was one on jewels from the S.R.I.A., which was a forerunner of the Golden Dawn, something I have a slight interest in. I joined a guided tour that took us through the robing rooms and into the heart of the building. All very interesting and it was free. However, if you were the guide, and it was your last day, wouldn’t you make stuff up such as that’s the telephone we tell the UN what to do on, or, that’s the room we eat the babies in?
After that I went to the British Museum (www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk) where there was an exhibition on the history of badges. Various individual badges of interest, black power, punk, protest, and amongst the sexual themed ones was one for SM Pride. Strangely, that didn’t appear in the accompanying book. Unfortunately, half way round the exhibition an alarm went off and the diligent person on duty ushered us out. Though this wasn’t happening anywhere else in the building. Brought back memories of Birmingham, earlier in this diary.
So, on to Brentford and on the Friday night there was a launch party at Stripes Bar at the Football Ground with The Rock Gods, including Rob on vocals, and Soliloquy, that again had Rob guesting on vocals for a couple of numbers. Have to admit that during the version of Edwin Starr’s War, after the line “What is it good for” I was tending to reply with such shouts as “Deposing third world dictators” or “Stimulating the economy”. Sorry.
On Saturday I kicked off the day on a panel about the history of the Brentford Books. So I burbled incoherently for twenty minutes, launching into various rants about subjects including the importance of the Ford Transit to post-war British economic history, how I heckle and Bicycles in the Cultural Revolution. Fortunately for everyone involved Rob turned up, so I shut up and he covered the subject. Though I did get him to say a little about his illustrations for Forum magazine. Later I asked questions during a talk on Quantum Teleportation and was then on the ‘I am in a Rankin Novel’. Reason here being he has mentioned my one-time band the Sonic Energy Authority in a few, (CD’s available from Frankenstein Sound Lab.
Sunday was quieter with a presentation at the library, a treasure hunt around the borough (which I didn’t take part in, though almost everyone who did wore pirate costume and one team came back with a wheel chair). Then we were drinking in the Bricklayers Arms that is the inspiration for The Flying Swan in many of Rankin’s books. The whole weekend was great fun, even if I did keep humming ‘Up town, top rankin’ to myself.
Aside: Tuesday 9 August
Travelling home and I remember that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Hadrianopolis, (now Adrianople) in European Turkey, 378, when an army of Visigoths and associated tribes defeated a Roman army. This is marked by the punkier elements of Nightmare Abbey in ways too exotic to reveal here.
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