Monday, 29 June 2009


The house is strangely quiet after our three good friends left today. I chauffeured each to the station as and when, in between helping C put up her show, which looks magnificent now it is all in place. But we are both exhausted. Tomorrow early to Cumbria for Dove Cottage reading.

A brief reflection on last week's conference. As the week went on so the atmosphere became more convivial, more relaxed, with more people prepared to speak up. The two major topics of the second and third days - censorship and translation - overlapped a little. The censorship debate extended beyond literature. Vesna G proposed that it was all too easy to censor that which we don't like anyway. We can censor David Irving or Geert Wilders because we generally agree that we would rather not give such people a platform. The problem comes when people censor what we like. Or when we are made uncertain through acts of censorship by others from a different culture working among us. The Satanic Verses book burning and fatwa was an obvious case, but so were the Danish Cartoons and the play Behzti, that was closed down under pressure from fiercely demonstrating Sikhs. Afterwards I asked Vesna in private what she would do with Mein Kampf or The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She took the Eastern European libertarian position. She would publish them both, she said, thus robbing them, as she argued, of their notoriety.

Her other major-line was about the insiduousness and danger of self-censorship. The examples raised in discussion were not all necessarily political, and tended towards the social or aesthetic. We tend reserve the right to reject that which is aesthetically dull or clumsy and that which is clearly anti-social. But what it these categories overlap with the political? Or if censoring one becomes the pretext for censoring the other? Under what circumstances may editors be said to 'censor' when they choose not to publish something? An editor's job is to edit, after all..

This is well-trodden territory, at least to Vesna and I. I am not quite sure how it touches on 'creative writing' as such except in so far that authors submit works to publishers who may accept or reject them.


Yesterday the sea at Cromer and at Overstrand. Cromer is semi-busy. A post-Edwardian melancholia hangs over it, despite the pier, the end-of-the-pier show (starring Andy Abrahams!), the ice-cream cornets, the crabs, and the faint, slightly greyish pearly surf settling over the stones of the beach. The Hotel de Paris failed to look as magnificently broody as I tend to remember it. There are holidaymakers here but they are mostly on the far side of forty-five. One small amusement arcade.

At Overstrand a sea-mist started rolling in and soon settled over the cliff too, the distinction between sea and sky eroding then gone.


Gwil W said...

A local told me Cromer could boast the Queen Mum's favourite beach and that she used to get on down to the beach down the ramp where the Cromer Lifeboat is. I found Cromer "between falling down and standing up" as Christie Brown once said of Leeds.
Now Grasmere, that's another loaf of gingerbread altogether. What was it Dorothy said, "The poet is in his office" meaning Wordworth was atop some distant crag a day's hike away. That's the way to bard and no question! Enjoy, the Lakes George. The barometer is set fair. I wish I was going there with you. We could visit the Olde Dungeon Ghyll and sample the 5 real ales and climb Helvellyn and, and, and ;-) !!!

George S said...

So little time, Gwilym, and very hot. Rather too hot really, though there were plenty of the old and silvering, determinedly setting off with backpacks. Wordsworth was a tall man in his time at 5' 9". In the round room at the Wordsworth centre we were shown a letter from him on his Switzerland tour where he talks of covering 13 leagues (39 miles!) a day, in the mountains, carrying their packs on their heads. Helvellyn would have been a brisk morning stroll for him.

Gwil W said...

Do you ken John Peel with his coat so gay? (not grey!!!! - the coats are red)

William's is "in his bureau" whatever the weather, George!
As one of "the old and silvering" myself may I humbly draw your attention to my photo-link under the item "The Bard on the Big Long Run" at
which relates to my 56 kms run over some big mountains last weekend. I'm wearing number 7 and a white cap turned backwards. The white stuff on the ground is snow.
But back to Wordsworth, I believe he once introduced friend Coleridge to Broad Stand - that's a steep descent off Scafell Pike - these days many people use a rope to come down there - but not the courageous Coleridge (doubtless spurred on by William and half a grain of Dutch courage) whose knees were knocking together like castanets. I believe STC wrote a poem, or at least an article or a letter, about the whole terrible experience and vowed never to go there again ;-)
Apropos Helvellyn there used to weather station on top and there was a man whose job it was to walk up there every day come hail, rain or shine and take meterological readings. I expect it's all computerised now, or perhaps even defunct.
In Roman days the climate was much milder. There's an ancient horse racing course up there somewhere! The Lakes is steeped in history. Near Keswick there was gold mine and all the miners were brought over from Germany. Now their ancestors make pencils for the Pencil Museum! You could use one to write your next poem. I wonder if Wordsworth used a Lakeland pencil. I expect he did. My best friend used to work for a well-known brewery in the Lakes, oh for a
"A pint of Jennings best"

Emerging Writer said...

That is really weird. I was in Cromer on Monday too. The fog was so thick, we couldn't see the sea from the top of the cliff when we got there.

We parked behind a long, long row of cars on double yellow lines then had to move it when it turned out all the other cars had a disabled sticker - indicates the average age.

Bought some truly wonderous sunglasses off a beach vendor for £3.50. Otherwise, didn't feel at all poetic.

I did read that the first reported use of the word pier was from Cromer though.

George S said...

Then you must have got there after us, EW. It grew misty once we were at Overstrand.