Sunday Poem by Rowland Crowland

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I think I’ve been blogging for around three years and I’m pretty sure a huge part of that time has been spent painting various rooms in various houses.  I just had a wave of deja vu hit me as I prepared to write this blog.  I have paint in my hair – gloss paint no less, from resting my head on the freshly painted door in a moment of existential despair, and paint all over my hands and my arms, which luckily has now dried, otherwise it would be all over my laptop as well.

We (Mr A and I) have been painting the small box room upstairs.  This is going to become my new writing room – at the minute, I’ve been using the living room downstairs, which is basically a thoroughfare to the kitchen, and I get no peace there.  Mr A charges through, humming joyfully, or stops to ask me something and then I get cross and breathe fire and I get nothing done.  So, we are having a change around, and I’m getting a smaller room, but hopefully a more peaceful one (and it has a better view over the garden) and there is no reason for anyone else to go in there apart from me, and if I want to, I can even barricade the door.  We also went and bought carpet today – again very exciting, as I decided that a completely impractical, cream coloured carpet was what I’d always wanted.  I’m also going to get floor to ceiling white bookshelves, and hopefully all of my poetry books will fit up there in one place.

This weekend I’ve finally felt like I’ve had a bit of space to breathe.  Last week I was on the verge of cracking up – this week, things have got a bit easier.  I don’t know if managing to get out for a run makes it easier, or whether that is just a sign that I’m less busy, but I feel mentally in a much better place.  I managed an 8 mile run on Wednesday along the beach, 11 miles out on country lanes on Friday and 6 miles today and I feel so much better for it.

I think it is the running that makes me feel better because when I look back over the week – there has still been a lot going on.  I went to Pauline’s house for a meeting on Monday and we made a start on the evaluation report which we need to send to the Arts Council about the festival.  I then had my final junior band rehearsal, which was sad and strange and lovely, all at the same time.  We ate the cake that I was given at the final concert, and quite a few of the children seemed obsessed with eating my face, which was printed on the cake.

I can also report that we have the photos from Kendal Poetry Festival uploaded and on the website.  All the photos have been taken by Martin Copley, so do head over and have a look.  The photos will be available to buy until the end of July from Photobox.

On Tuesday I was teaching.  One of the children who was at the concert said ‘I thought you were leaving!’ when I walked in.  ‘Not yet’ I said gaily.  After work I went to Ambleside to read at a NCS summer school to 70 teenagers.  I did four of these readings last year and they are frankly terrifying.  Give me a reading in a men’s prison any day.  However, they are often very rewarding and this one was really lovely.  Lots of the teenagers came and spoke to me afterwards and asked questions. One even came and read two poems that he’d written that he had on his phone.  I shot back afterwards for another soul band rehearsal.

Thursday was the next manic day – a hastily arranged poetry workshop at a school in Penrith.  I judged the Active Cumbria poetry competition, and the prize for one of the winning entries was a poetry workshop.  The winner was a Year 6 girl who would be leaving at the end of this term, so the workshop had to take place this week.  I’m really glad I managed to fit in time to do the workshop – I worked with a lovely Year 6 class at St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School.  They listened, they were enthusiastic, they wrote some lovely lines.  One girl, describing having a go at archery had a line about ‘the injured target’.  How good is that?

After the workshop, I went to Manchester to have a meeting about the teaching that I’ll be doing next year at MMU and then had a few hours of hanging around, trying to catch up with the mountain of admin that is still quite mountainous before heading off to teach the final session of my Poetry School course.

On Friday I went to Lancaster Spotlight because two of my Dove Cottage Young Poets had put their name down to read on the Open Mic.  I gave two friends, M and C a lift down and we had a great laugh – it felt like the first time in ages I’ve laughed that much! The young poets were fabulous as well – which I wasn’t surprised by, I already know how fabulous they are.

Last night I had a gig with the Soul band – a 6oth birthday and wedding anniversary celebration.  So, thinking about it, the week has been full-on, but it has felt manageable.  Next week, I’ve got my last two days of teaching and then I’m off to Holland on Friday to read at a poetry festival, so lots to look forward to, and a possible exciting gig that hasn’t been fully confirmed yet – but if it comes off, I’ll let you all know!

Today’s Sunday Poem is by a guy called Rowland Crowland.  I heard Rowland read this poem at Ann Wilson’s Verbalise Open Mic night in Kendal a couple of months ago.   It was a great performance, and I only wish I had a recording of him reading it to go alongside the poem – you will have to imagine it being read in a broad northern accent – I’m saying northern, although I want to say yorkshire, but I’m thinking it might be lancashire so northern seems safest.  But anyway, the type of accent that would make the rhyme ‘status’ and ‘potatoes’ chime perfectly.  This poem makes me smile when I read it and I think the rhymes are really clever, but it also has a darkness to it as well – the sadness in those lines

But it’s never use your crying
Over anything that’s spilled,
When all your life’s spent dying
An’ your living’s long been killed.
breaks my heart.  And then there is the constant work, the drudgery, and the things not said.  So I love the humour ‘Everybody else just played at gravy/But she really made it’ and the sadness and anger in it ‘It’s a bloody lifetimes bloody stains/ Two pinnies have to conceal’.   Thanks to Rowland for letting me use his poem.


Pie Tin – by Rowland Crowland

She had an enamel pie tin
An’ everybody craved it.
Everybody else just played at gravy
But she really made it.
Everything was on the table
Just as she’d laid it,
An’ she never gave anything at all away
If she could possibly save it.

Values,
Working class values,
The values that made our world.
Values,
Real values,
The birth right of every girl.

She was a homely woman
With a household full of ornaments.
She wasn’t a comely woman,
She had very few personal adornments.
She always had two pinnies though,
……….a sign of status
And the smell that came through her kitchen door
Was braised onions and potatoes.

She had a pot horse on the mantle piece
An’ she donkey-stoned the step.
An’ on the geraniumed window sill
A secret door key was kept.
A spit-and- polished sideboard
Just to spit and polish on.
On Mondays it was washing day,
“Where’s all this washing come from!?”

Values,
Working class values.
The values that made our world.
Values.
Real values.
The birth right of every girl.

An’ every day’s a cleaning day
An’ every day’s a godly day
An’ every stick of furniture’s
Been all but spit and polished away.
A pledge to him in heaven
To keep the parlour clean,
In return for blessings on a Sunday
From Jesus and maybe an ice cream.

She’s weaving yarn all through the week,
Working her fingers to the bone.
Running ragged in the cotton mill
And threadbare in the home.
It was always the Protestant ethic
To work for the father and son,
And on Sunday’s you’re spied on by the Holy Ghost
So she had to put her best frock on.

The clock…..forever ticking.
The cross……forever giving pardon.
But there’s no rest for the wicked, “sorry”
While there’s rhubarb in the garden.
Thin custard on a Friday
On a little piece of sponge cake.
A few tiny random salad items.
A sliver of hake.

Values.
Working class values,
The values that made our world.
Values,
Real values.
The birth right of every girl.

An’ everybody understood
That nothing should be said.
Nothing bad would be talked about
Till after she was dead.
So all the loves, the lies, the leers,
The lechery was hidden.
Frustrations, flirtations,failures, fears,
Just festered in the midden.

It was all about appearances
An’ keeping things from others.
She couldnt share her feelings
With her sisters or her mother.
So not far beneath the surface
The nightmare’s bleeding real.
It’s a bloody lifetime’s bloody stains
Two pinnies have to conceal.

But it’s never use your crying
Over anything that’s spilled,
When all your life’s spent dying
An’ your living’s long been killed.
It’s all just something and nothing,
It’s nothing to shout about.
So calm yourself! An’ dry your tears
An’ get your pie tin out!

Values.
Working class values,
The values that made our world.
Values,
Real values,
The birth right of every girl
Yeh, the birth right of every girl!

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