Saturday, 13 December 2008

Back from London

I have been back from so many places recently it might as well be London this time. Being an obliging sort of man I did a freebie (I mean it cost me the return rail fare to London) for a magazine I thought worth supporting and set off to be there for 11.00 am. The wind turned my umbrella inside out twice on the way to the station where the ticket office was closed since it was Saturday. So half an hour or so on the platform, my person centrally heated by the energy of Otis Redding entering through both ears and meeting himself vigorously in the middle. Singing this among other things:

There is a deeply searching essay on male self-image in the songs of Otis Redding waiting to be written by an appropriate person. Could be me. Might not be me. Probably will not be me. In any case Otis warms you somewhat on a frozen windswept bare platform. So shake. You might as well, you are shaking anyway. He also invented the lift, did you know?

The weather was no different in London. Umbrella blows inside out a third time.

On the way to the venue I walk past Stockwell Bus Garage, a great hangar with space for ten thousand small boys of circa 1960 with bus-spotter's notebooks in their hands. I was asked if I wanted to go bus-spotting at the age of ten by a classmate called Jimmy Kendall. I said I had seen a bus before. He explained about the numbers. Next thing was to get a big fold-out map of London with all the bus routes on it. The numbers I was most used to were 183 and 79, but there was a whole exciting world of more numbers waiting for us out there. The trouble was I was short sighted but hadn't yet had an eye test, so while I had no difficulty in spotting buses as such, the numbers were not even a blur. Nevertheless the power of having a big map in my pocket and almost countless numbers of buses to catch was as exciting as life could get at age ten, having already walked over a mined field between Hungary and Austria one night two years before, aged eight. Well, I think it was mined.

Jimmy Kendall later kissed a girl called Wendy on the very last day of school. She was standing against the back wall of the class. I liked Wendy anyway. After he left I told her I loved her. First girl I told that. And meant it. She gave a little scream then ran away. I heard from her last week. From Australia. She needn't have run that far.

The event? In a house/gallery full of Picassos, Matisses, Lucian Freuds, Craigie Aitchisons, David Hockneys and Tracey Emins among other things. It was all very friendly and rather mystifying. The magazine editor had, in the meantime, resigned, and the deputy editor was not there. I had written a poem about a Howard Hodgkins painting. There it was. I read the poem about it to about eight people, that and three more Hodgkins poems. Also present: Robert Vas Dias, Anita Klein and Eileen Cooper. One of my stranger readings.

This is Eileen. Very good painter. Find her on Google.

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

Otis! Thanks for the clip. I wondered when he died: Wikipedia says December 10. He was only 26. He would now be 67. Just imagine.

The image of the woman going all the way to Australia reminds me of Simon Armitage's "The Shout", a poem about a school friend that just keeps echoing for me: