Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I saw the play about Gracie Fields on BBC4 last night, Jane Horrocks as Gracie was stunning. It put me in touch with thinking about my mum and dad and their war time experiences and how as a postwar baby I grew up in the legacy of that time. I guess I am a PTSD baby. My dad never recovered from his war time experiences it marked him for life. I can't figure out how much of how he was was down to the war and how much was being a baby born in 1913 to a rather Victorian mum.

My parents delayed having children until the war was over apart from a pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage that I don't think my dad ever knew about. Their first baby died in 1947 6 days old and then my sister was born and then me. How could our childhood be normal with that kind of pre birth story?

Since my dad's death I feel close to the Second World War experiences of him and others. It's weird like I am carrying them for him or perhaps they have always been inside me but are now surfacing. I don't know where one thing ends and the other begins. I just weep.

So enough damage how can we live without war?



Music again

This whole business of learning to play the piano is fascinating stuff. For example having to learn the left and right hands separately before putting them together is dead curious. Right now by accident my latest tune is Ding Dong Merrily on High one of my favourite carols. It has a marvelous chorus which I love trying to sing without taking a breathe. The right hand does some real fun stuff, I guess it kinda of represents church bells. If I switch my electric piano seeting to Church organ it is delightful to listen to.

Now when I put the two hands together as I have just begun to do then I can't play it yet at sufficient speed so that it sounds like the carol. Slowed down it rather sounds like a minaret, rather like a 18th Century dance you might hear in a Jane Austen film. A stunning effect.

On another tune the right hand alone sounded very Scottish and plaintive but when put with the left it sounds more North American. It does make you wonder how stuff gets composed and how what might at first seem like very different left and right hand bits but blend well when put togethr. I am sorry but I can't help thinking of the Pets and Neil's melancholic thoughtful lyrics and Chris' high NRG music. You wouldn't think it would work but it does and feeds both sides of me.

And I guess that points to how I can resonate with Jnaanese culture wwhich is both delightful and artistic and stunning and sometimes so low brow - kirsch as well. Well they did invent karoake, Sumo wrestling and caligraphy and artwork to die for.

I guess it is too late for me to acquire taste and I would not want to lose something precious to me in the process. I can't go so single minded as that.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 23 November 2009


When I was a teenager my Godmother Nancy used to knit me these wonderful polar neck wool sweaters that were fantastic in the cold Manchester winters. There was a orange, a white, a purple and a black one, I think, over 4 years reflecting my changing fashion colours. I wore them for years.

Well she got too old to knit but had a friend who used to knit wool socks so for years I got these socks instead for Xmas. They were great for hiking in but virtually indestructible. I didn't have the heart to refuse them. Then she went into a nursing home as I have mentioned on previous blogs, so no more socks.

Well a number of people in my Quaker meeting are involved in work with asylum seekers including a winter night shelter based in the Meeting House and other local churches. There was an appeal for clothes and I thought of these socks. They went down a treat and before the first night was over they were all being put to use.

It is a lovely thought that those hand knitted socks given to me by my Godmother Nancy are being put to real use in this way. She was a Welsh woman from the valleys in which all the men in her family went down the mines. She once said that Margaret Thatcher had not got the milk of human kindness in her. This was perhaps an unusually forthright statement for her to make but it showed where her heart was. I think she would have been right pleased to see these socks being put to such good use.

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Many poet again

Last night I was a Manky poet again at the regular monthly gig in Chorlton library. There was about 50 people there - double last month's audience. So I only got to read one of my poems - 'Bleeding bikes' but it went down well as did my warm up joke. I am getting more relaxed about performing in this way, it is very different to a 50 minute Uni lecture!

I can imagine performing other people's poems which I will probably do at my forthcoming birthday do. So maybe I have got the performing bug. There is another monthly poetry spot in the Green Room so I might end up there one of these months. It is great to be heard in this way. It's very affirming, might even be addictive.

I have entered 2 poems ('It's me or you mate' and 'Bleeding bikes') for the new poetry competition run by Poetic Republic - www.poeticrepublic.com. I entered the competition they ran last Spring and was 33rd out of 310, this was with my poem 'On meeting Pam again after 30 years'. 33rd was enough to encourage me further and I hope to finish in the top 10% this time, ideally the final 12.

I have also sent up a six line short story produced at Paper Planes creative writing workshop last weekend, to www.sixsentence.blogspot.com. I'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile I think the final version of my latest edited academic book has met with my editor's approval. This only leaves my 5th book past its submission date but I blame my co-authors Terry and Clare :)

Best to all,

Bill on bike

Monday, 16 November 2009

Frankie's tail

[creative writing again]

The girls were putting out their Christmas stocking and so were the boys. Me I didn't care about Christmas. All I wanted to do was party party. In those times I was into a wild and weird scene or so it seemed at the time. Lots of es, lots of dancing, weird sex - some of it very weird. It all kinda of got a bit addictive. I wasn't that fussed whether it was men or women as long as they were young and pretty. I almost never remembered their names that well but some of their faces stay with me till this day. But I was off my head so much of the time and so I am not sure how much was real and how much was the movie inside my head. This was all before my first crackup...

[As told to Amanda]

The eggman or something

[creative writing piece]

- I am the eggman, I am the walrus, Goo goo ja goob.
- Shut the fuck up.
Thankfully there was silence.
- I thought the walrus was Paul.
- Oh shut up.
This next silence was bitter.
- Oh thanks a bundle.
- I am not creating this to keep you pleased.
- Well I wish somebody was.
- What?
- Trying to keep me pleased.
- Oh.
A puzzled silence.
-Silences of the world unite you have nothing to lose but your identities.
- Silence is golden.
- Shut the fuck up.

I did.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Wear the sword

William Penn was a man about town in 17th Century London so accordingly he carried a sword for self defence. As a Quaker committed to peace this trouble him so he sought George Fox's advice. George's reply is a classic Quaker quote, "Wear the sword as long as thou canst"

Well I feel the same way about driving a car and flying by plane. I need to stop.

This week in the Guardian there have been whistle blowers who tell us that the estimates of oil reserves have been lied about so that the market does not panic. So it seems highly possible that we might run out of oil before we are ready to live without it. If so it will get rough and I imagine food rationing and digging up our back gardens and common land will have to happen as in World War 2. Thankfully my wife is a farmer's daughter. We already have raspberries, apples and a few pears and lots of compost.

I remain profoundly pessimistic about Copenhagen and whether our politicians have the will and the humanity to take the necessary steps even if we do have the time and whether public opinion is ready. Our lives need to change more profoundly than most of us yet accept.

So maybe the death of our cars will jolt us into a new life that is gentler on the planet. But it is gonna hurt. We need to find better ways of leading rich lives based on the quality of human interactions.


Bill-on-bike thankfully not raining this morning

Wednesday, 4 November 2009


Confession! Last night I took Anglican communion for the first time in ages and last month I even took Catholic Mass (in both cases the ministers were friends of mine) so I will probably get 'disowned' by my fellow Quakers :) and who knows what action might be taken against the priests involved!

It was a great liturgy from New Zealand very inclusive and we sang a hymn written by a Quaker - nice touch. There were only 6 of us so I found myself really singing with gusto pleasure and mostly in tune. My singing lessons with Rebbecca are clearly paying off.

Mostly when Rebbecca first hits a note for me to copy at the start of the lesson my first attempts are wide of the mark. Usually I need to slow down and wait and feel the note and then respond. Then it is usually right. At my primary school I was not even offered one real chance of singing in tune, never offered any teaching just told to mime. What kind of 'teaching' was that?

In my own teaching I have so much patience for my students as they struggle to sound their own academic notes. I love doing it and feel no desire to put them down or humiliate them. I have gained so much over the years from this work of mine. I always try to find the place in me where I can give of my best. So if I find myself being bored in part of my work I try and get out of it. So that mostly my creative energies can flow. When I enjoy my work so do my students and their work gets better.

My music teacher in primary school never got the pleasure of hearing me sing. The Head of my primary school said to my parents, "Never be surprised by anything he does". Well I have surprised myself.

Best to all,