Sunday, 19 April 2009 Absolute Disgrace

...well, not there yet. We are only on the three dots in between. The early family life is very good. I don't think it is good simply because I am interested in the life of someone I know and like, but because the facts themselves are interesting, the observations drawn from those facts are interesting, and because the nice blend of language registers signalled at the beginning of the has gathered a certain amount of pace by then.

Some reviewers of the book have talked about humour and laughter, how they thought a lot of this was funny, like some kind of display of wit, and while there is certainly humour and wit my foreign self doesn't laugh. That may be because laughter is a function of recognition, and nothing of this is really recognisable to me. Reading it I wonder that I am a poet at all, a poet in English that is. How could I possibly be working in a culture of which this is the language, these the core experiences. Please read my poems, says the Man in the Moon. I bring you Moon sensibility in the English language!

But no, it isn't entirely like that. The cultural patterns are strange but the emotions are not.

For surely Stokies are not interested solely in other Stokies. Stokieness isn't the only valid form of being. And for all the talk of loyalty and guilt and mates, we know this, the author knows it, and most of those constituting the inner circle of the imagination - whether that is the Stoke circle, the North circle, the working class circle, or any other damn circle - know that being outside, even if only in the imagination, is a condition of understanding the centre.

I am, of course, exaggerating when I say I recognise nothing. I recognise both the description of British Rail sandwiches as "a single sliver of processed cheese pressed between two slices of Mother's Pride scraped down with margarine" and the slightly troubled, defensive gesture of rejecting the "racist television comedians" who made such sandwiches a butt of their jokes.

'Please don't associate me with them,' goes the subtext. 'I am cool about such things.' And I guess he is. But I am glad he doesn't go on to deliver a sermon on it.

One of these days I will find someone who admits to having found those comedians - all working class, pretty well all northern - funny at the time. And, while on the subject, I may one day find someone who admitted enjoying the Black and White Minstrel Show, because, assuredly the show had huge audiences, nor were they all members of the National Front.

The author would simply have been too young for that, but in general I am not in favour of retrospective cool and retrospective virtue. Not, at any rate, at a safe distance. Circles and centres are not necessarily what we remember them to have been. I mean my own circles too, because, well, it would be pointless if I didn't.


Billy C said...

"One of these days I will find someone who admits to having found those comedians - all working class, pretty well all northern - funny at the time. And, while on the subject, I may one day find someone who admitted enjoying the Black and White Minstrel Show, because, assuredly the show had huge audiences, nor were they all members of the National Front."

You've found someone, George. They were funny and I used to watch the Black and White Minstrel Show every week. Racism is only racism when you mean harm to those you speak of. I'm too delicate to say any more at the moment. I spent a working class 'Stokieness' weekend with the author. It was hard work keeping up with the boys.

I hope this makes sense. I've not recovered yet.

Poet in Residence said...

I'm sorry to say that Stoke-on-Trent was formed in 1910 by the amalgamation of 5 towns. It's not a real place at all.

George S said...

Arnold Bennett?

Poet in Residence said...

The "Mighty" Stoke they are calling them now. 1-0 it was.

Blackburn Rovers (founded 1875) obviously still in state of shock after a 4-0 mauling at Liverpool and a 4-1 drubbing some other place. Reputation counts for nothing. 'You're only as good as your last game' (Bill Shankly).

Stephen F said...

This is my first ever several-part review. I feel honoured.

Your Blackburn just weren't very good PIR. Howevere, I you will be okay simply because there are 3 worse teams than yours in the division.

George, whose fault was it?

a) the ref's


b) the pitch's


George S said...

Personally, I blame Rafa Benitez and Alistair Darling. And the fact that we put out the youth team may have had something to do with it.

Considering that, it wasn't too bad, and if anyone was going to beat us I am glad it was Everton. I like Moyes and I like the way his team generally plays.

Of course everyone says the pitch was crap, but then it was the same for Everton (Moyes says the same.) I think that probably prevented it from being a particularly skilful game. But it takes no blame for the defeat of one team as opposed to the other.

The penalty - are you suggesting it wasn't one?

As for the penalties (plural), I have seldom seen two such pathetic attempts as Berbatov's and Ferdinand's. After those we deserved to lose.

James said...

Blackburn, of course, feature in the first ever film of league football - in an 1898 game against WBA.

Both teams were as bad in front of the cameras then as they are now.

George S said...

I'm leaving the North to sort this out as an important tribal matter.

Billy C said...

Stoke City. Formed 1863. The second oldest football club in the world after Notts County. We are indeed the Mighty Stoke.

As for the Stoke game, Blackburn were poor. Stoke were poor, but better, if you know what I mean. I've always liked Blackburn Rovers. They have a great name. I hope they don't go down.

As for the Man U v Everton game...I was bored out of my skull with that one. Had that been Stoke and Blackburn playing, the press would have had a field day telling the world that neither team deserved Premiership status. Yes, it was a penalty.

George, the 'Stokieness' language for public convenience and pissoir is a universal one: bogs. Doesn't everyone say 'bogs'? Don't the upmarket working class/imaginary middle class' say bogs?

James said...

I was born in Widnes and don't see any other northerners here but myself;-)

Interesting to think that Chelsea were as old in 1939 as Stoke were in 1897.

Poet in Residence said...

Estb. 1863. Well, I'll doff me flat cap.

"You ain't seen nothing like the Mighty Stoke..."(to the tune of Mighty Quinn). Were they singing it on the terraces?

"Doesn't everyone say 'bogs'?"
Being a Toff (our other posts) I say "I'm going to the heads" to make out that I have an ocean going yacht...but only when I've got me Golden Mile° souvenir BMW keyring dangling from me imitation crocodile belt.

°Scene of the most memorable goal I ever saw live. Paul Gascoigne free kick for Spurs at Bloomfield Road from the halfway line. Ah, you say others have done that. Yes I agree, but not ONE YARD from the touchline in a gale force wind!

Poet in Residence said...

Widnes? A Chemic [:-})
Just think, James might have been to see the Chemics. That's a man's game, George. Rugby League it's called.
Meantime I was probably watching the Linnets at Canal Street over the river. They often played like Linnets too. Cheshire League stuff. Basically it was the combination of rain and a sloping pitch that defeated the likes of Bangor City and Hyde Utd.

George S said...

I am East side of Budapest, but North of the River Tiffey.

By about fifty yards.

Liam Guilar said...

I'd admit to liking the Black and White Minstrel show. We watched it every week, but I was in primary school, TV was new, and we watched everything that had music in it. I don't think the black and white part of it meant anything then, anymore than the clothes in "The Good Old Days', or Val Doonigan's rocking chair. I'd feel uncomfortable now but know I didn't then.

George S said...

Yes, I was a child too then, Liam, and my family certainly watched it, in fact went to see it live at the Golders Green Hippodrome some way down the road from Kingsbury where we were then living. We also went to see something or other on Ice, and possibly The Gang Show (that might have been with teachers).

I can even recall the names of some of the singers in the B&WMS. Dai Francis (tenor, Jolson sound-alike), John Boulter (baritone, I think), and Tony Mercer (bass), who formed the core of the troupe.

I don't think the costume and black-face meant anything to me then, any more than the golly on the Robertson's jam - I was a child myself - nor did it to my parents. I doubt it prejudiced them about anything any more than they might have been already. We didn't tend to watch TV in didactic terms. It was a singing and dancing show with songs my parents loved and the kind of singing they liked. The rest was a kind of wallpaper with sparkle.

That's what I mean by retrospective virtue. We tend to condemn in the past what we condemn now as if to absolve ourselves - or so I sometimes think - of the vices we currently engage in. We assume the past was equipped with the same sensibilities as the present and blame it for not acting on them.

It would of course be a completely different matter now, when our sensitivity to such issues is keen, and made so through experience.